Friday, November 9, 2012

Widener Engineering Celebrates 150 years of Innovation in Engineering Education

In 1862 three students at the Pennsylvania Military Academy (now Widener University) undertook the study of civil engineering. So began a legacy carried on for 150 years. Today, Widener University has 465 graduate and undergraduate students in different fields of engineering – biomedical, chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, and engineering management.

On Saturday, November 3, students, staff, faculty, and alumni joined together to celebrate the program’s past while looking ahead to the future at the 150th Anniversary Gala at the Franklin Institute.

The school has changed names, but its commitment to engineering education has not wavered. There are thousands of successful graduates who became leaders in all facets of engineering. This year, the Widener University School of Engineering celebrates its past while building on its rich history with a vision of the future – developing the engineering’s of tomorrow.

In a room full of entrepreneurs, authors, researchers, and executives, one particular alumna – Sandra (Fay) Morgan, ’71, stood out. Morgan was honored with the Widener School of Engineering’s 150th Anniversary Medal, as she was the very first woman to enroll in the School of Engineering (then Penn Morton College) in 1967.

Morgan was surprised by the recognition. “I am honored,” she said. “This is just another example of how forward thinking this university was even back then, they offered me – a woman – a full scholarship.” Morgan recalled visiting campus for the very first time. “When I saw Kirkbride Hall I felt like I was at a ‘real’ engineering school, compared to everything else I had seen at that time,” she said. “That was the tipping point for my decision.”

A scholarship recipient herself, Morgan strongly supports the new Anniversary Scholarship Fund, which was launched during the sesquicentennial celebration. When fully endowed, this fund will provide financial assistance to future generations of engineering students. “I hope all the recipients are as appreciative as I was.” 

Ray Jefferies, the longest tenured faculty member at Widener, was also honored for his commitment to teaching excellence and community service. Jefferies, who join the Pennsylvania Military College in 1966, has developed number of courses in the School of Engineering. He also holds two patents and over the past decade has become an active volunteer for the Red Cross.

The guy who got me into engineering was my neighbor, James 'Buddy' Harper, who attended Widener's Engineering school. If figured if he could do it, I could do it too. 

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