Cover Story

engineering highlights

Historical highlights from the last 100 years of the Engineering program


• Department of Engineering was founded, and held classes on Jefferson Avenue.
• First class was held on Oct 2, 1911, and comprised 20 students. The department opened with offerings in Mechanical, Civil and Electrical Engineering. The Jesuits taught the sciences and mathematics in the
engineering school the first year. The more specialized engineering subjects were taught by laymen.

1912:engineering highlights

• Under the guidance of President William F. Dooley, S.J., and Dean John R. McColl, the  Engineering Department developed the co-operative engineering course, which began in 1912. Pay was 10 – 25 cents per hour.


• The annual tuition was $100 plus fees. Students were still able to obtain weekly board and lodging for $4.50 and upwards.
• In Fall 1915, 45 students were enrolled; 27 were freshmen. With increases in enrollment, plans began for a new building. Ground broke March 8, 1915, and Dinan Hall opened on Jefferson Avenue in February 1916.
The Dinan brothers—John and Michael
— were the lead benefactors.Engineering Centennial


• Chemical Engineering was added to the curriculum in 1917.


• Father John P. McNichols S.J., became president in 1921 and started looking for property to build a new campus. The property selected was 43 acres on the current property site at McNichols and Livernois. The new McNichols Campus was finished in 1928 and included the new Engineering building.
• Aeronautical Engineering was added in 1922 with Dean Thomas Dunn. It was one of the first three programs in the country.
(A Detroit News article states that it was engineering highlightsthe first.) The Department of Engineering changed to College of Engineering. Co-op rotation changed from a weekly rotation to a two-week rotation. Average co-op pay was 30 to 40 cents per hour.
• Architectural Engineering was added in 1923 with Professor Bert N. Blackslee from University of Michigan as the new department chair.
• In 1923 enrollment was 300 with  the addition of the new programs, particularly Aeronautics.
• Russell Lawrence was named dean in the fall of 1927.


• The Aerodynamics building opened in 1930. Airplanes up to seven feet could be tested in the new wind tunnel.
• This period was dominated by the effects of the Depression. Co-op jobs decreased. Students were allowed to go to school continuously. The existing co-op jobs paid 50-75 cents per hour for juniors and seniors and 40-45 cents per hour for freshmen and sophomores.
• Dean Clement Freund was appointed dean of the Engineering College in 1932.
• First annual Slide Rule Dinner was held in 1932.
• Dean Freund changed co-op rotations to start after the sophomore year to protect co-op jobs for juniors and seniors during these Depression years. Later, starting co-op after the sophomore year became normal practice.
• While still in the Depression years, President Albert Poetker, S.J., refinanced the University’s debt, a major contributor to the well-being of the entire University.
• In 1937 U of D was listed in first letter of Accreditation by the Engineering Council for Professional Development, making it the first university to be accredited in the nation (along with the others accredited that first year). The Aeronautical, Architectural, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical programs were accredited. U of D was the only metro Detroit program to have all engineering degrees accredited.


• Father Celestin J. Steiner, S.J., became president in 1949 and announced a $20,000,000 campaign with $10,000,000 for new buildings.
• The engineering curriculum changed to include three required philosophy courses to add breadth to U of D’s engineering education.


• In 1957, the University announces a curriculum in Architecture will replace Architectural Engineering.
• Plans are formulated to tear down Dinan Hall (the original engineering building in downtown Detroit) to make room for the Chrysler Freeway in downtown Detroit.


• In 1965, Department of Architecture moved out of the College and became a separate school.
• Decision to phase out Department of Aeronautical Engineering was made in 1965.
• The first Engineering Alumnus of the Year award is presented in 1966 to Merrill Hayden at the 34th Annual Slide Rule Dinner.
• The College developed a Bachelor of Science degree and the Computer Engineering Program in 1969.
• In 1969, the Polymer Institute was formed to provide a concentrated study of plastics.


• In 1974 Arthur C. Haman was named new chairman in Mechanical Engineering department.
• The Master of Engineering Management program began in 1974 with first class starting Jan. 8, 1975.
• In 1972 Warren E. Cerrone returned as Assistant Dean of the College, replacing Associate Dean Jasper Gerardi. He taught from 1964-1968 after having a position with NATO.  
• In 1974, the Toothpick Bridge Building Contest was initiated as part of Engineering Week. In high school and college divisions, bridge builders competed to see who could build the strongest, yet lightest, bridge using only white glue and toothpicks.
• In 1977, science programs joined engineering to become the College of Engineering & Science.
• In 1979 James Kent is named Dean of the College.
• Engineering degree programs changed from five years to four years in fall 1982, but still retained one full year of co-op engineering.


• In 1982, a $243,000 renovation of the Engineering Building included replacement of the old concrete and glass skylight over the building’s “Pit” area with a brighter, more energy efficient fiber glass roof.
• College of Engineering & Science marked its 75th Anniversary of “providing an education that will make our graduates productive and contributing citizens in the technology of the 21st century,” said then Dean James Kent.
• In 1987, the College set up a robotics laboratory for use in advanced undergraduate classes.
• A renovated Engineering Pit made the 1988  Engineering Week program a hit with 380 high school students who visited U of D.


• The University of Detroit and Mercy College of Detroit consolidate in 1990 to form the University of Detroit Mercy.
• Leo Hanifin becomes Dean of College of Engineering & Science in 1991. Dean Hanifin completed his Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering, Master of Engineering and Doctor of Engineering at the U of D in the 60s and 70s. 
• In 1991, the College launches the Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering program on-site at Ford. Enrollments quickly grow to over 100 students.
• In 1992, the Mexican American Partnership Program, a collaborative initiative among UDM, Monterrey Tech and the automobile industry, begins to prepare bilingual and bicultural engineering students to be leaders in the automotive industry.
• The College’s Alumni Hall is dedicated on Feb. 18, 1994 to reflect the “remarkable achievements of our alumni.” This was made possible through the generous contribution of Chris ‘64 and  Mary Fette.
• Henry Nickol Design Studio was created in 1995 as a flexible teaching environment to support team-oriented design activities.
• The College dedicated the Ford Advanced Computing and Teaching (FACT) Center in 1996 to support state-of-the-art methods of instruction. FACT included a new advanced CAD laboratory and capabilities for multi-media and remote delivery of classroom activity  to off-campus sites. The center was funded through a $1.1 million gift from Ford Motor Company. 
• In the late 1990s, other renovations to the Engineering Building were supported by a gift of $1 million from the PICO Company and over $500,000 from alumni. These included the installation of an elevator, environmental engineering and GIS laboratories, new meeting rooms and three large high-tech classrooms.


• In 2003, the College celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Engineering and Chemistry buildings, among the oldest buildings on the McNichols Campus.
• The College’s new rapid prototyping system allows students to test their design ideas by “printing” actual prototypes that they can hold and examine. It is the first component of the Visteon Prototype Center supported by a three-year, $500,000 commitment from Visteon Corporation.
• A $174,000 grant from the National Science Foundation supported UDM’s expansion of its mechatronics program introduced in 1999.
• In 2010, UDM becomes the lead institution of the Michigan-Ohio University Transportation Center (MIOH UTC), a coalition of five regional universities funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation to address transportation flow issues. Dean Leo Hanifin serves as the MIOH UTC’s director.
• Entrepreneurship program begins with IDEAS (Interdisciplinary Design, Entrepreneurship and Service), the cornerstone course of UDM’s entrepreneurship minor, taught by faculty from four disciplines. 
• The U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) funded research using UDM’s engineering expertise to help develop the next generation of military vehicles.