From the Dean
This edition of Auburn Engineering looks again to our history, this time from our official founding as a college in 1908-09, to the depression, through two world wars and into the ‘50s, when we suddenly found Sputnik challenging everything we thought and did.
As any alum knows, Auburn’s programs have grown and prospered over the past century, from the institution’s official recognition of its engineering program as a college to today’s push to build a program truly national in scope.
But it hasn’t always been an easy ride. While the first two decades of the new college reflected prosperous years for Auburn and the role of engineering at Auburn assumed great prominence, the institution as a whole suffered in the years leading up and into the Great Depression.
Contracts for new buildings gave a much-needed boost to Auburn’s physical plant, but their maintenance turned into a drag on lean budgets when funding dried up – and a lot was tied to engineering, which comprised about half of the institution’s enrollment in the roaring ‘20s, and not much less in the years leading to the second world war.
Indeed, at one point in the ’30s Auburn’s leadership felt it was dealt “a blow to the institution from which it will not recover for years to come [and that] to dismantle the work here at Auburn at the present time would be a crime.
I probably can’t communicate how true those words can sound to an engineering dean in the current economic climate, although I know full well that the economic pain is spread fairly evenly across all sectors of the economy as we pull through what are arguably the most difficult times in decades.
At the same time, John Jenkins Wilmore, an iconic figure in the history of Auburn Engineering, noted in his tenure as dean that the attitude of the student body was ‘fine’ and their behavior ‘good’ as they remained ‘attentive’ and availed themselves to ‘a decided increase in the use of the library.
I walked through the library this morning, and to be honest, it was . . . full. Students were in the stacks, at study carrels, on the digital card catalog and on their laptops, studying away. It struck me to see how engaged they were with their monitors on this midweek day, an hour away from lunch. So much has changed, yet so little.
Our determination to build one of the best engineering programs in the nation hasn’t changed at all. As you look through this issue of Auburn Engineering, I invite you to pause and think about the many positive things going on at Auburn today. I won’t list them here, they are in the pages that follow.
I will say this – our students are building and growing on a legacy that you as alumni, have created. Stay engaged with us and help us build Auburn Engineering to levels never before seen. I know the students I see here today will do the same.