125 Years at the Edge In Knowledge
The administration and faculty of Newark Technical School began to discuss offering degrees in engineering shortly after the turn of the 20th century, which was reflective of national trends in technological education. The term “engineer” appears for the first time in the minutes of the Board of Trustees in 1916, with approval subsequently given for introducing university-level courses in chemical and electrical engineering during the 1919-1920 academic year. On the basis of these developments, the State Board of Education recommended that Newark Technical School be given the authority to grant degrees under the name Newark College of Technology. The college awarded its first bachelor’s degrees in 1923 — a total of three in chemical engineering, three in electrical engineering, and four in mechanical engineering.
The first half of the 20th century was a period of great challenge as well as great achievement for the school. Headed by Allan Cullimore from 1920 to 1949, Newark College of Technology was renamed Newark College of Engineering in 1930. While the college’s course offerings and academic stature increased greatly during this period, physical expansion of the campus was limited to the 1925 opening of Campbell Hall and the 1948 acquisition of the Newark Orphan Asylum, now Eberhardt Hall – NJIT Alumni Center. Campbell Hall was named in honor of Peter Campbell, a former president of the Board of Trustees.
During these decades, Newark College of Engineering weathered two great national traumas — the Depression and World War II. The Depression sharpened the school’s focus on a key aspect of its educational mission that continues to be of paramount importance. In the 1930s, NCE clearly emerged as a “school of opportunity,” dedicated to giving talented young people access to higher education regardless of their economic circumstances. Greatly expanded during the Depression, the college’s co-op program made it possible for many students to earn the money needed to remain in school.
The scientific and technological knowledge that NCE students acquired in the 1930s and 1940s would prove crucial for the nation in World War II. Like virtually every institution in America, NCE went on a war footing when the country entered the war after December 7, 1941. Academic programs were accelerated so that as many young men as possible could complete their degrees before entering the armed forces. To remain in good academic standing, students had to spend their summers working in war industries. The college helped them to find such employment.
Special engineering courses for defense workers were also introduced. A college brochure listing the courses to be offered in the spring of 1942 stated that they are “designed to meet the shortage of engineers, production supervisors, chemists and physicists required by expanding war industries.” The brochure made a special appeal to women, urging them to contribute to the war effort in technical fields. There was no tuition for these special courses, and students paid only for books and lab fees.
After the end of World War II in 1945, the nation’s colleges and universities experienced an unprecedented increase in enrollment, and Newark College of Engineering was no exception. For veterans, the G.I. Bill opened the door to educational opportunities that the preceding generation could not have imagined. At the start of the 1949-1950 academic year, there were nearly 6000 students enrolled at NCE. Of these, more than half were veterans.
The increased enrollment at NCE sustained by the prosperity of the 1950s led to the construction of Cullimore Hall in 1958. Two years later, the old Weston Hall was demolished to make way for the seven-story structure now interconnected with New Jersey School of Architecture. Continuing physical expansion of the campus approved by the State of New Jersey in the second half of the decade led to the 1966 opening of several new buildings, including Tiernan Hall.
The next great wave of change for Newark College of Engineering came as the first members of the Baby Boom generation embarked on their college careers in the 1960s. It was another era of great social ferment. Many of our society’s institutions were reassessed in the light of new challenges. Completed in 1970, the first phase of a master plan for higher education in New Jersey set forth a slate of goals outlining an ambitious social mission of educational opportunity, campus diversity and community involvement.
NCE moved to develop programs to meet these goals and challenges under the guidance of presidents who included Robert Van Houten and William Hazell. Indicative of the school’s expanding academic scope, NCE awarded its first doctoral degree in 1964. Other academic highlights of the era included the formation of the Computer Science Department in 1969 and the founding of New Jersey School of Architecture in 1973.