Members of the mechanical engineering department do research on high-speed jet and rocket exhausts, circa 1960.

Chancellor William Pearson Tolley, circa 1942.

This collaboration between industry and academia was a fitting start for the new college, as similar partnerships defined the engineering college at SU for the next 100 years. “I believe the overarching historical signature of the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science [ECS] has been the synergies among faculty, students, and staff at the college with partners on campus, at other academic institutions, and at companies around the world,” says Edward A. Bogucz, dean of ECS.
      As early as 1877, courses in civil engineering were available to students through the College of Liberal Arts, with electrical engineering offered in 1897. However, there were no engineering graduates from 1890 to 1899, and very few classes were offered until Smith funded the new college. Enrollment increased quickly from 183 students in 1902 to 401 in 1908. New programs were added to modernize and expand the college’s curriculum—including mechanical engineering, 1900; industrial (now known as manufacturing) engineering, 1911; chemical engineering, 1914; and aeronautical (now aerospace) engineering, 1927. Machinery Hall further enhanced the college’s facilities with such features as a hydraulic laboratory, cement-testing machines, forges, and a foundry.
      In the following years, the college enjoyed continued growth. The first woman to attend, Helen E. Bloom, was admitted in 1928. In 1935, Eva May Bonham became the college’s first woman graduate, earning a degree in administrative engineering. At the time, SU was one of only a small number of institutions in the United States that allowed women to pursue an engineering education. Some schools, including the prestigious engineering college at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, didn’t admit women until 1970.
      Today, SU continues to play a leadership role in educating women engineers. The WISE (Women In Science and Engineering) program—co-facilitated by Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence Shobha Bhatia, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering—has earned national acclaim for providing role models for women students and professors in science and engineering through interaction with faculty, mentors, and renowned guest speakers.
Civil engineers use modern laboratory methods, circa 1960
      Michelle Henry Tomlinson earned a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering at SU in 1997 and finished a master’s degree in engineering management a year later before accepting a position at General Electric Power Systems. She says the environment at ECS helped her come out of her shell and prepared her for the workforce. “The engineering school taught me not only how to be a good and fast learner, but also to be someone who is capable of handling change and not afraid to take a leadership role,” Tomlinson says. “I was a student facilitator for a calculus course through PRIDE [Program Rooted In Developing Excellence, an ECS initiative to foster the development of students of color and women students], and that allowed me to help some of my classmates achieve their goals, which I’m really proud of. Being a woman in engineering at SU isn’t an issue, because it’s more about the entire group working toward a common goal of being successful.”

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