History of the College
Engineering education did not always take place at 1947 North 12th Street. In fact, engineering education has seen the interiors of a few different buildings since the first class, Heat Treatment and the Metallography of Steel, was taught in 1921. Among the more interesting buildings where classes were taught includes the Technical Institute of Temple University, located at 1808 Spring Garden Street from 1952 to 1960. This building was formerly the Temple University Dental School & School of Chiropody and contained a beautiful amphitheater for operations. The Technical Institute relocated to Stauffer Hall, the building where engineering classes took place before moving to the North 12th Street location, in 1960. Stauffer Hall was a former bank building with only two elevators. Each one had an elevator operator. According to Dr. John Helferty, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who was an engineering student in this building, the operators would race each other to see who could reach each floor the fastest. Since the hallways were “the size of a doorway” as Dr. Helferty remembers it, there was a race to get to each floor because the hallways became crowded so quickly. A few years after the College of Engineering Technology opened, the groundbreaking for the current College of Engineering building at 12th and Norris streets took place on October 17, 1976. The college officially moved to this location on August 7, 1978. Since this time, the building has been through various interior renovations to appear as it does today.
Women have had a significant presence in engineering education at Temple. Although typically considered a field of study that attracts men, the college has been attracting more women on many different levels for the past few decades. Dr. Cynthia S. Hirtzel was named dean of the College of Engineering in 1995, only the second female dean of engineering in the nation at the time. After the PhD program started in 1991, Amy Jacobson Murphy became the first female PhD graduate in 1996. The recent addition of the Bioengineering Department should attract more women to the college since bioengineering and environmental engineering attracts more women than other engineering fields. Furthermore, the College of Engineering is offering an exciting one-week, residential summer program for female high school students entering their sophomore, junior, or senior year. It is called the Women’s Engineering Explorations program or WE2 program. The program is now in its fourth year. The goal of this program is to give these high school students an opportunity to explore the world of engineering, and reinforce their math and science skills. Participants will get to live on campus and discuss engineering topics with professors, students, and industry leaders. This experience could change for the better how they view engineering as a career. As a result, they might pursue math and science courses for the rest of their high school careers and continue this into college, eventually leading them to choose an engineering profession. Therefore, it is clear that the college is changing how women view the field of engineering.
The college has always worked to be on the cutting edge of technology and equipment. For example, a computation center was established in Stauffer Hall rooms 406 and 406A as reported in the August 1970 issue of Tech Newsletter, the newsletter sent to alumni and friends of the Technical Institute. The center provided students in the Technical Institute and the College of Engineering Technology with the most modern computer and calculations methods available at the time. Some of the machines were semi-computers capable of doing many of the tasks of scientific computation which freed the large- scale computer for more sophisticated or data-heavy assignments.
The move from Stauffer Hall to the present building at 12th and Norris was a turning point for many reasons, especially for the technological capacity of the college. The new building meant more space for larger equipment and larger labs to store that equipment. In August 1981, the college received $10,000 worth of computer equipment from the Hewlett-Packard Company for use in developing new opportunities for disabled people. The gift was a special addition to the university by the Academy for Educational Development for Temple’s “outstanding programs serving the educational and career needs of the disabled.”
Today the College of Engineering houses advance labs serving the civil, mechanical, and electrical fields. The Civil and Environmental Engineering Department’s Environmental Hydrology and Hydrolics laboratory has massive computation ability. It contains 40 processors where massive parallel computing takes place to solve realistic, large-scale environmental problems. The Civil and Environmental Engineering Department also received $150,000 worth of equipment as part of the three-year, $1.2 million grant by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. The equipment includes sensors that test long-term behavior of Prince William Sound. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (www.evostc.state.ak.us) is a partnership between the State of Alaska and the Federal Government to oversee the restoration of the ecosystem of Prince William Sound that resulted from the largest oil spill in U.S. history. The equipment in the Mechanical Engineering’s Biofluidics Laboratory makes various research possible such as targeted drug delivery to tumors and infracted hearts, tissue engineering, design and development of biofluidic chambers, radiation and tumor biology, and microcirculatory blood flow. The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department’s System Chip Design Laboratory (SCDL) has equipment focused on improving the mission of the SCDL to forge a new paradigm for the rapid design of complex digital systems, digital signal and image processing, and digital communications.
The college would not be where it is today without the hard work and dedication of former faculty such as John Rumpf, William Melchior, Theodore P. Vassallo, Edward F. Cahoon, Robert H. Creamer, Edward L. Fleckenstein, Matthew Mandl, Harry M. Pfeffer, Stanton Woerth, Frederick Higgins, John Tarka, and Victor Schutz. Today, our faculty continue to be trailblazers both inside and outside the classroom, all the while increasing the amount of research funding. Many of our faculty have recently received national recognition. Dr. George Baran, associate dean and professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was named a fellow of the American Instituteof Medical Radiological Engineering. Dr. Mohammad Kiani, chair and professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was elected a fellow of the American Heart Association. Dr. William Miller, associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, was appointed by Mayor Nutter to serve on the seven-member Air Pollution Control Board for the City of Philadelphia. Dr. Dennis Silage, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received a National Outstanding Teaching Award by the American Society for Engineering. In addition, Dr. Silage, an expert in both analog and digital communications, was featured on the university web site answering questions about the digital TV transition and what it will mean for consumers. Silage also hosted an on-campus demonstration of how to prepare for the conversion.
The College of Engineering has received nearly $9 million of new multi-year research funding to our faculty. This has grown from a few hundred thousand dollars in the 1998-1999 fiscal year. For instance, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s number of full-time graduate students has grown 20 percent within the last three years. This increase directly reflects how much research expenditure has grown. In particular, Dr. Rominder Suri, a new associate professor in the department, has received a $1.6 million grant to establish the Pennsylvania Environmental Technologies for Pharmaceutical Industry (PEPTI), which is designed to sustain and advance the pharmaceutical industry. Grants like these are solidifying the College of Engineering’s stellar reputation as a research institution.
The curriculum has made significant strides in the past few decades. There have been many milestones for the engineering curriculm at Temple. Among them are the beginning of the College of Engineering Technology, ABET accreditation and the addition of the Bioengineering Department. The College of Engineering Technology was approved by the University Board of Trustees on December 10, 1968. The meeting minutes state, “This college will take the place of the current Technical Institute which is not a collegiate program. It will train students for the greatly needed field of operations, in contrast to most schools of engineering which concentrate on theory and research.”
The College of Engineering Technology officially opened its doors on Sept. 9, 1970, under newly appointed dean Dr. John L. Rumpf. According to Dr. Rumpf, four-year baccalaureate programs in engineering technology were relatively new in the United States and had been developed because of the changing emphasis of the curricula in the established engineering schools. Dr. Rumpf explained that “engineering undergraduate programs have become more scientific in content, educating students for careers in research and development following graduate study. In contrast, the curricula here at Temple University’s College of Engineering Technology will emphasize the practice of engineering according to the latest technology.”
Another major accomplishment for the college took place in 1988 when it received ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accreditation for the civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering curriculum. Today, the College of Engineering has taken another bold move forward by adding the Department of Bioengineering. The new department will be a major expansion for the College of Engineering. Bioengineering is an interdisciplinary study that spans academic disciplines including engineering, medicine, physics, biology and chemistry. Graduates are associated with cutting-edge areas such as implant design, tissue engineering, bioimaging injury biomechanics, targeted drug delivery and biomimetics. The department will be shared by the College of Engineering and the School of Medicine, though it will be initiated in Engineering. There will be five faculty members from Engineering and five faculty members from Medicine. Currently a search is being conducted for a chair of the department.
As seen by its diverse curriculum, the college paved the way in the past, and is continuing to pave the way into the future.
Temple’s engineering students who have come and gone have helped shape both the college and the university for the better. The College of Engineering Technology opened its doors with 250 students enrolled in September 1970. By 2008, over 1,000 students (undergraduate and graduate) were enrolled.
Each student is unique in what he or she brings to the College of Engineering. Scott Stoffel, EE ’01, was a student who did not let setbacks stop him from living his life to the fullest. Scott was born with a vision disability, lost his hearing at age 19, and had insufficient sensitivity in his hands to feel things such as traditional Braille. Still, he did not let these disabilities stop him from pursuing his interest in engineering. In 1998, Stoffel enrolled at Temple and entered the electrical and computer engineering undergraduate program. With the guidance of Dr. John Helferty, the assistance of Temple’s Disability Services, and accommodating professors, he was able to complete all of his coursework and graduated in May 2001.
For his senior design project, Scott worked on addressing the difficulty in reading Braille for people with sensory difficulties, a problem he had become very familiar with in his life. Scott’s solution was the palm Braille machine. Scott’s device converts text into Braille that can be felt by placing a hand or forearm on the tissue box-sized device. Six solenoids in the machine pop up in the exact form as traditional Braille for each letter. The device is a computer peripheral device that can be hooked up to any computer with a USB port. It can be set to reproduce Braille letters at almost any speed the reader desires, and also has features like pause and rewind.
Peter Strahs, a junior mechanical engineering major and president of the Ultimate Frisbee Club, brings a part of a family tradition to the College of Engineering. He is part of 15 Hennessy descendants who have graduated or are currently attending Temple University. His grandmother, Mary Jane Carson Hennessy, began the tradition in 1942. Then Peter’s mother and six aunts followed, graduating from various schools and colleges within the university. Now along with his two cousins, William Dougherty, a music composition major, and Colleen Sullivan, a biology major, Peter is part of the third generation attending Temple University.
Engineering students have always been active outside of the classroom also. The Concrete Canoe Race has been a part of the college’s history for over thirty years. The Temple University chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers has participated in the concrete canoe race since 1973. Students are required to design, build and paddle their canoes.
Don Bitterlich, a 1976 Civil Engineering/Construction Technology program graduate, set a number of National Collegiate Athletic Association records as a member of the Temple University varsity football team. His national records in 1976 included:
- Most points scored in one season by kicking – 95
- Most points scored by a kicker in a 3-year career – 220
- Most field goals, one season – 21
- 78 consecutive PATs (Points After Touchdown)
The College of Engineering has been fortunate to have such a diverse and well-rounded student population. The talents, backgrounds and life experiences of the engineering students have only added to engineering education and the university as a whole.
This article was originally published in the Spring 2009 Alumni Newsletter.