Dean John Jenkins Wilmore

Dean WilmoreDean John Jenkins Wilmore gave 55 years of devoted service to Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University) as a distinguished engineering educator and administrator. A native of Indiana and graduate of Purdue University, Dean Wilmore’s Auburn journey was almost over before it began. Arriving in 1888 as a Mechanic Arts Assistant Instructor, Wilmore had initial misgivings after a train ride in the middle of a rainy night when he was deposited in the tiny college town of Auburn.

Dean Wilmore later admitted that he considered getting back on the train, but without the money to return home and a yellow fever epidemic further down the line in Montgomery, he had little choice but to stay. Something about the small town must have appealed to the farm boy from Indiana, as he remained at Auburn his entire career.

When Dean Wilmore arrived, civil engineering was the only engineering curriculum offered. He embraced the task of teaching around 25 students algebra, drawing, blacksmith and foundry practice. In 1892, the curriculum in mechanical engineering was introduced and Wilmore was named Director of the Department of Mechanic Arts. When the School of Engineering was established in 1907, Wilmore was named Dean of Engineering, a position he occupied with distinction until his death in 1943. 

From 1932 to 1935, Dean Wilmore served as chairman of the Administrative Committee that served in place of the President of the College. The committee helped assure the College’s survival during the depression years, despite the failure of the State to pay appropriations. In recognition of his outstanding service in directing the administrative affairs of the College during that period, the Board of Trustees conferred upon Dean Wilmore the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Among his other achievements, Wilmore also built the steam engine which in 1889 generated electricity for lights in Langdon and Samford Hall, the first in a college building in the South. The School of Engineering was developed, expanded and improved under the inspiring leadership and devoted service of Dean Wilmore. The Willmore Laboratories exemplify his devotion to progress in engineering education and serve to honor the ideals and spirit of a great Auburn man.

Last Updated: Sep 21, 2016