Freshman Engineering at Purdue University:
A Memoir

Dr. Richard E. Grace by Dr. Richard E. Grace • December 1, 2010


What drives progress in engineering education: war, depression, research and discovery, societal change? Surely all of these, in part, but the greatest driving force comes from engineering faculty leaders with vision, with determination, with passion. And perhaps with a bit of serendipity, too…

The Starting Point

Purdue campus: 1930s

The first reference to a “common” freshman year for the several engineering curricula at Purdue University is found in the 1934-35 Bulletin of Purdue University. Prior to 1934-35, each of the four principal engineering programs (Chemical, Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering) maintained separate and distinct freshman year requirements. 

While most of the freshman curricula focused on mathematics, chemistry, English and military training, variations among curricula involved freshman year requirements for mechanical drawing, surveying, shop, German, and other modern languages.

The “new” freshman year was described in 1934-35, in part, as follows:

In order to give the student sufficient time to adjust himself and to choose the branch of engineering for which he is best adapted, the program of study during the first year is common for the curricula in chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, public service engineering, engineering law, and industrial education. Lectures and conferences will be used to guide the student so that by the end of the first year he may be in a position to make proper selection. It should be noted, however, that matriculation in the Public Service Engineering curriculum is limited to a small group of selected students. —1934-35 Bulletin of Purdue University

Now for the backstory. How did such a change to a common freshman year ever take place?

First, a bit of perspective: How old were you in 1934? [As an aside, I was four years old in knee pants, a precocious only child, living with my parents on the south side of Chicago in the steel-mill district around 79th Street and Stony Island Avenue. My wife, Connie, was born in 1932, a delightful first-born child, and lived in West Lafayette with her parents. Her father was John T. Fotos, then-popular professor of modern languages, and the family lived on Waldron Street about a block from where Dean and Mrs. Potter lived.]

Dean A. A. Potter If you were born before 1934, you witnessed, however directly or indirectly, one of the greatest moments in the history of engineering education. Imagine looking through your personal lens to a time when Andrey A. Potter was in his prime as Dean of Engineering at Purdue University.

Potter was born in Vilna, Russia, in 1882, came to America alone at age 15, graduated from MIT in the Class of 1903, and took his first teaching position in 1905 at Kansas State Agricultural College. By 1910 he earned the rank of full professor and in 1914 was appointed Dean and Director of the Engineering Experiment Station.

Potter left Kansas State to become the third Dean of the Schools of Engineering at Purdue University in 1920. (For the thoughtful: W.F.M. Goss was the first dean and Charles Benjamin the second.) Potter had negotiated his position with President Winthrop E. Stone at the magnificent salary of $6,000 annually, only to find out that Stone died in a mountain-climbing accident, and suddenly Potter’s new boss was Purdue President Edward C. Elliott. They got off to a rocky start, which apparently continued. Potter later was asked whether he had to disagree with or oppose President Elliott very often. The answer was a terse, “Every day.”

Potter’s circle of friends throughout America was enormous. He told me personally that when he would visit Thomas Edison’s laboratory, he would shout into Edison’s hearing trumpet to no avail (Edison was deaf as a stone); Henry Ford once refused to pay Potter’s consulting fee for a day’s work in Detroit (Potter—who rarely spoke an unkind word—did call him a “tight bastard”); and Potter expressed the greatest admiration for Karl T. Compton (well, of course… Compton was the brilliant president of MIT).

Potter was thoroughly immersed in engineering education of his era. Two “white papers” had guided engineering education nationally. The first was the Mann Report (1918) commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation; this report called for better preparation in mathematics and for more “real engineering projects and more research on better teaching methods.” W. E. Wickenden and H. P. Hammond followed with a major report in 1930, also supported by the Carnegie Foundation. Their findings helped to bring about creation of the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD) in 1932.

In 1924-25 Potter served as national president of the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education (but most of the faculty joked that SPEE stood for “prevention” of engineering education). In 1932 and 1933, Potter was national president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Formal, autocratic yet charismatic, Potter enjoyed his bully pulpit.

Concurrent with his other national leadership roles, Potter served ECPD on the inaugural Committee on Engineering Schools with Karl T. Compton as chairman. In the inaugural lists of ECPD-accredited undergraduate curricula, Purdue first shows in 1937 as having four accredited curricula (Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering). ECPD accreditation upgraded engineering education in the United States to the highest standards in the world.

Now, can you imagine who was responsible for establishing Purdue’s common freshman year in 1934? If you think it was A. A. Potter, you are right. Did he do all the work himself? Of course not! The Heads of the Schools of Engineering were both his trusted colleagues and his best friends. Potter relied on them to sell his ideas to the engineering faculty and to tell the Purdue story across the state of Indiana and across the nation. They delivered Potter’s message with one voice.

Associate Dean William Knapp was the major domo of all central office operations (read "paperwork") within Purdue engineering. I believe that Dean Knapp wordsmithed the exact description of the new common freshman year in the 1934-35 Bulletin.



Recently, I called on several of my freshman classmates from around 1947 and 1948. We are all age 80+, and our current recollection of freshman operations is slightly out of focus (we all have incipient cataracts!). First and foremost, there was no department, no unit, no formal structure to “Freshman Engineering.” Associate Dean William Knapp created a system for dealing with approximately 1,500 to 1,800 freshman engineering beginners annually. His system: a secretary, 3”x5” cards, and the University Educational Testing Service run by H. H. Remmers. 

Every freshman engineering student took a general placement examination in mathematics, science, and English in the Hall of Music a few days before their first freshman registration. Remmers had developed quantitative criteria based on student test scores for placement in either standard or advanced sections of mathematics, chemistry and English. Over the years, Remmers had developed the correlation between placement in the “right” course and the student’s eventual retention through the freshman year. (Of course, none of us freshmen knew any of these goings-on.)

When we arrived at the Armory to register, we received our “personal” 3”x5” card that had our pre-determined courses, and then we proceeded to register for them one course at a time until the schedule was complete. Some students relished placement in the advanced courses but later complained that they did not receive any credit for the beginning courses they “tested out of.” Other freshman students were happy to be assigned to standard courses where they could hope for an easy “six” (remember the A = six-point grading scale—only at Purdue!).

I was in this latter group and have vivid memories of my “six” freshman grades in everything except for shop and mechanical drawing. I accidentally found out that the English department had a dual grading standard: more A’s (higher percentage) for the advanced students—because they were “better” students—and fewer A’s (lower percentage) for the regular students. It took several themes and a few well-chosen words with my English instructor to make sure I received my A grade.

Counseling and guidance was nowhere to be found in “Freshman Engineering.” Dropping a class was out of the question—you toughed it out, pass or fail. My only exception was a visit to Dean Knapp. I met him in his office only once, perhaps after a few weeks of school. I have no idea why I was called in, other than I had received an out-of-state fee remission scholarship from Purdue ($100 per semester), and perhaps this was some kind of follow-up. Bill Knapp was a kind, older man with a welcoming twinkle in his eyes. He definitely focused on my success at Purdue. We reviewed my course load, class by class, and then we talked about my being away from home for the first time. I was 17, and many of my freshman classmates were GI’s who were 8 to 10 years older. We were worlds apart, except for keen competition for grades. I had a wonderful 15 minutes or thereabouts with Dean Knapp, and I was impressed with both his personal warmth and his “system” for registering 1,500 to 1,800 new students every year.

Old Fowler HallDean Knapp also organized Engineering Lectures for the freshman engineering students. These were held weekly in “old” Fowler Hall, a delightful but drafty Neoclassical limestone building (where Stewart Center is now located) for lectures, small convocations, and some musical and theatrical productions. For zero credit the new engineering students convened weekly for lectures by A. A. Potter, the School Heads, and general information about course registration, careers, and professional engineering topics.

I never met Dean Potter personally when I was an undergraduate. At that time I viewed staying out of the Dean’s office as a good thing. My wife, Connie, had a long history of seeing Dean Potter often, typically around 5 p.m. when he walked to his home on Russell Street in the pre-war years. He would see Connie and her sister, Ginnie, playing on Waldron Street, pat them on their heads, and ask, “How are my 'leedle' girls today?” Every Halloween, Connie and her sister visited the Potter’s home in costume (their parents were dutifully a few feet distant) and were greeted by the Dean with, “My, who can these 'leedle' girls be—and so far away from their home?” Of course, the Dean’s greeting was followed by a small treat made by Mrs. Potter.

How history repeats itself: Thirty years later in the 1960s, my wife and I introduced our children, Virginia and Rick, to Dean Potter. He promised to give them Lincoln Medallions. Their expectations soared—only to find out that Lincoln Medallions were copper pennies. Years later, the Dean redeemed himself when he gave them copies of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

The Changing of the Guard

World War II was over; the peak GI enrollment in engineering was over; and engineering educators were assessing their educational programs once again. Engineering leaders in universities and in industry noted that radar, sonar, bombsights, even the atom bomb were principally creatures of the mathematical and scientific community. What had been missing in engineering education?

As early as 1951, engineering societies led by ECPD and the American Society for Engineering Education, or ASEE (formerly SPEE), began to ask for change to keep up with rapid developments in science and technology. Draft reports were circulated to bring engineering accreditation into consonance with the future responsibilities of engineers. By 1953 a Preliminary Report on the Evaluation of Engineering Education was distributed by ASEE for critical review by every college and university with an ECPD-accredited engineering curriculum.

George Hawkins Against this national backdrop, A. A. Potter retired as Dean in 1953 at age 71. Potter  “hand picked” and “hand trained” his successor: in 1953 the new Dean was George A. Hawkins.

George Hawkins had been one of Potter’s best graduate students. Hawkins was an excellent researcher who pioneered the use of super-critical steam at both high operating temperatures and pressures to reduce the cost of electricity.

Hawkins was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1907. (He confided to me that his father was the only man he knew who wore a six-shooter and used it regularly.) Hawkins completed the BSME degree at Purdue in 1930 and was a graduate assistant with Potter for his MSME and Ph.D. degrees. Hawkins later studied heat transfer with Max Jakob, and they co-authored a seminal text on heat transfer. In 1943 Hawkins was promoted to professor of mechanical engineering and heat transfer.

George Hawkins was a member of the ASEE Committee on Evaluation of Engineering Education, which issued the Preliminary Report. I believe George Hawkins also led the institutional review within the Schools of Engineering at Purdue.

The Grinter Report of 1955 on Evaluation of Engineering Education overhauled both the philosophy and the delivery of engineering education! The reason I know this well is that Hawkins had hired Reinhardt Schuhmann, Jr., from MIT to become the new head of the Metallurgical Engineering Division within the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering in January 1954. In turn, I was Shu’s first hire in September 1954. The “new” emphasis was on basic science, engineering science and engineering analysis, design and systems. As a new Ph.D. at age 24, I thought I was in heaven. It took the older faculty several years to adjust; some never did, and they left Purdue. The focus on engineering science lasted a full 25 years.

George Hawkins was far more collegial than Potter. One of Hawkins’ first administrative actions was to create the Faculty Committee on Freshman Engineering in December 1953. The goals were two-fold: a new Department of Freshman Engineering and a new set of freshman year requirements.

Albert R. Spalding was appointed Head of the Department of Freshman Engineering in 1953 and also Chairman of the Faculty Committee on Freshman Engineering. Spalding was a popular professor of mechanical engineering with a strong interest in his students. First reference is made to the new department in the Schools of Engineering Catalog for 1955-56, but the freshman curriculum had not yet changed. The transition was complete in the Schools of Engineering Catalog for 1956-57. Freshman engineering beginners who entered Purdue in September 1956 were the first to be subject to the new graduation requirements.

For comparison, a selection from the 1956-57 Engineering catalog is reproduced below:

The Department of Freshman Engineering offers a program of study which precedes and is common to the degree-granting curricula in aeronautical engineering, agricultural engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, engineering science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, metallurgical engineering, and engineering law. This common program gives the student time to become adjusted and to choose the branch of engineering for which he is best adapted. Lectures and individual counseling are provided so that by the end of the first semester a student may make a tentative choice of a school or curriculum in which he wishes to obtain a degree.  —Announcements for the Year 1956-57, Schools of Engineering, Purdue University

Dean Hawkins led the faculty to adopt a new freshman curriculum which included upgraded mathematics, chemistry and a new four-credit course in General Physics. Of equal importance, Hawkins drove shop and surveying from the curriculum and reduced graphics from four credits of engineering drawing to three credits of engineering graphics. (Potter must have bitten his lip!) 

Engineering Administration Bldg, original home of First-Year EngineeringThough the earliest details are sketchy, Freshman Engineering was a real department with a real faculty to serve the students. An early personnel roster shows the following faculty members: Albert R. Spalding, Head; Edward C. Thoma; and William B. Sanders. Other faculty joined the fledgling department: Roy Lindley (1956), Bill LeBold (1957), Bill Briggs (1961) and Dick McDowell (1962). A host of volunteer counselors from the Schools of Engineering also has served over the decades; over 115 faculty members and at least 100 students have seen part-time duty. (I found my own name on the 1955 roster!)

For nearly 50 years the Department of Freshman Engineering labored to fill its original charter and to take on new roles as the times demanded:

  • Academic counseling (1953)
  • Freshman year curriculum responsibility (1953)
  • Pre-engineering guidance (1953)
  • Educational research to support the freshman year (1953)
  • Honors Programs (1958)
  • Women in Engineering Program (WIEP) (1969)
  • Counselor-Tutorial Program (1971)
  • Minority Engineering Program (MEP) (1974)
  • Instructional Programs (Computer Programming) (1981)
  • Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) (1995)
  • Industrial Advisory Council (1997)

Concurrent with this timeline is another sequence: the former Heads of the Department of Freshman Engineering:

  • Albert R. Spalding (Founding Head): 1953-67
  • Clifford Gerde: 1967-73
  • Harold T. Amrine: 1973-81
  • Richard E. Grace: 1981-87
  • Phillip Wankat: 1987-95
  • Victor Goldschmidt: 1996-2000
  • Jennifer Sinclair Curtis: 2000-03
  • Kamyar Haghighi: 2003-04          

What does not show in this brief memoir is the day-to-day and year-to-year activities of faculty, staff, and students.  Each department head could write volumes about births, sickness and deaths, marriages and divorces, hirings and firings, promotions and promotions denied, national awards, curriculum revisions and new programs during their watch. Separate histories outside the scope of this memoir should be consulted about the following programs: Women in Engineering Program (WIEP), Minority Engineering Program (MEP), and the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program.

For my purposes, a few illustrations will provide some local color:

  • Professor Richard McDowell took over the role once played by Dean Knapp. For over 30 years Dick McDowell served as Associate Head and Director of Counseling and Guidance for approximately 50,000 freshman engineering students. He was a guardian angel to every one of them.

  • Professor William LeBold took over H. H. Remmer’s role and studied special student populations, specific courses, course loads, grades, pass rates and eventual graduation rates of all freshman engineering students. Bill LeBold’s careful analysis led to continuous improvements in the freshman engineering curriculum, better course selection for individual students, improved academic advising, and increased retention through graduation.

  • During Viet Nam and the national anti-technology movement (1967-72), freshman engineering enrollment dropped from 1,500 freshman beginners per year to a low of 927 freshman beginners in 1972. Although I was serving as Head of the School of Metallurgical Engineering, I designed and founded the Division of Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies (IDE) in 1969 to offer new nontraditional engineering majors to freshmen; a few engineering examples include acoustical, architectural, biomedical, environmental, engineering management, systems engineering, pre-med, pre-law, etc. These new majors really appealed to beginning freshmen, and upon completion of the new degree requirements, they received the Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree. Curricular reform followed swiftly throughout all of the other curricula in the Schools of Engineering.

  • The Women in Engineering initiative and the Minority Engineering initiative, coupled with the new IDE program, brought freshman engineering enrollment back to 1,600 beginners per year with a total freshman engineering enrollment of over 2,500 by 1976.

  • Enrollment in the Schools of Engineering went from feast to famine and then back to feast in a few short years, so much so that Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering begged for a way to limit enrollment into their sophomore years. I created the Engineering Admission Index (EAI) as a general solution to the enrollment-leveling problem, and it has been used for decades. The Management School adopted my good engineering practice for their own Management Admissions Index (MAI), and it is still used today. 

In my first few months as head of the Department of Freshman Engineering, the other School Heads started asking me about the number of freshman students who were likely to enroll in their programs during the following year. To my dismay, I found that for years the records clerk had simply kept a tablet with handwritten notes in pencil. There was one page per school with a series of hash marks, four marks and a slash to make five. If a student changed from one program to another, one hash mark was erased and a new hash mark was added to the newly selected program. All of this was in 1981, before computer terminals had been introduced to Freshman Engineering.

My solution: I got the records clerk a terminal, and she entered every student’s name with the intended major of their choice. With the UNIX grep command I was able to sort and produce rosters on demand. Daily changes were made to update the database. It took a few more years to integrate terminals throughout Freshman Engineering operations, but by the mid-1980s Freshman Engineering had joined the computer revolution in the Schools of Engineering (well, more or less…).

In the 1980s the office copier worked overtime! Jokes of every persuasion regularly made their way around the office much like email stories do today. One year around budget time, I believe that Jane Daniels and Marion Blalock placed a copy of a cartoon on my desk. The subject was a drawing of two small children, one boy and one girl, standing and facing each other and still in diapers. They were tugging and looking at the front of each others’ diapers, and the caption read, “Maybe that explains the difference in our salaries.” To this day, there are more than a few smiles when this story about gender equity is told and retold.

And who doesn’t love a good A. A. Potter story? Dean Potter and I became the best of friends around 1965, and this continued until his death in 1979 at the age of 97. For many years Dean Potter, Norris Shreve and Shu Schuhmann took me under their wings. They would come to my office in the Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering Building almost every Tuesday around 11:30 a.m. to “help” me with any thorny problems I might be having. This was a bit transparent—they just needed a ride to Rotary and they were all half-blind—none of them was driving.  Sometimes we would pick Dean Potter up at his house on Russell Street.  His daughter, Helen, was living with him and one Tuesday met me at their front door. I got the full lecture about “Father’s tum.” The Dean had put on some serious weight, mostly around his waist. Helen admonished me, “Keep father’s pants and belt up over his 'tum' or there will be dire consequences.” One week I didn’t listen carefully enough. Shortly after we arrived at the Morris Bryant for Rotary, I noticed that the Dean was shuffling. His pants had fallen to his ankles (and I really believe he never noticed). So, as any good engineer would, I raised the Dean’s pants over his “tum” and cinched his belt a notch or two tighter. Total time elapsed one minute or less, a few smiles from Rotarians, but never a word was spoken—especially to Helen.

A New Focus

Engineering education was ripe for change once again! By the mid-1980s both mainframe and personal computing was a part of every engineer’s vocabulary, Silicon Valley was a household word, and the bubble had begun to rise. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (formerly ECPD) sensed the frustration of the engineering faculty, their students and industrial employers. Once again science was leading, and engineering was following. 

By 1997 ABET adopted Engineering Criteria 2000 (known as EC 2000). The emphasis was on what engineers do best—innovation and engineering design. Even more important, the focus shifted to what students learned, rather than what the faculty taught. There was a companion call for continuous improvement and added flexibility.  Engineering programs could be as innovative as the mission and goals of their parent institutions. Bean counting was out; flexibility, objectives, assessment, and continuous improvement were in.

Concurrent with the changes brought about by ABET, the Schools of Engineering at Purdue University were experiencing leadership changes. Dean Henry T. Yang left in 1994 and was replaced by Richard J. Schwartz. Linda Katehi became Dean of Engineering in January 2002, and Leah Jamieson was appointed Dean of Engineering in August 2006. These changes added new and immediate vitality to the engineering programs in every way!

The National Academy of Engineers (NAE) weighed into the national debate and created the Engineer of 2020 project in an effort to develop one vision for all of engineering. The result was a national workshop and a National Education Summit in 2004. Both Dean Linda Katehi and then-Associate Dean Leah Jamieson attended the Summit, and Dean Katehi spoke eloquently about “The Global Engineer.” These proceedings were captured in two volumes: The Engineer of 2020 (2004) and Educating the Engineer of 2020 (2005).

In the 1990s Purdue President Steven C. Beering began planning several major construction projects for the West Lafayette campus. Among these was a new engineering building which would house all first-year engineering activities. Fundraising and construction were completed by Purdue President Martin A. Jischke as part of taking Purdue to the “next level.”

The Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering became the flagship of the College of Engineering. After initial planning by Dean Richard J. Schwartz and subsequent planning by Dean Linda Katehi, Purdue’s Board of Trustees approved construction at a cost of over $53 million (of which over $15 million came from private gifts) in May 2005. The dedication, with Neil Armstrong present, was held in October 2007; by then, planning and construction spanned three Deans of Engineering: Dick Schwartz, Linda Katehi and Leah Jamieson.

Of special note, in June 2003 Dean Linda Katehi proposed an expanded mission for the Department of Freshman Engineering. A faculty committee under the leadership of Kathy Banks, Head of the School of Civil Engineering, was charged with exploration of both an expanded mission and a potential name change to the Department of Engineering Education. The new mission might include required and elective course offerings, curriculum oversight, emphasis on engineering education research, options for graduate education at both the Master’s degree and Ph.D. degree levels, expectations for faculty tenure in the new department, and courtesy/joint appointments for faculty members outside the new department.

Interim Associate Dean of Engineering and Head of the Division of Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies (IDE) Phil Wankat, a member of the committee, recommended to Dean Katehi that she increase the charge to the committee to include the possibility of merging Freshman Engineering and IDE, which would make IDE the new Department's undergraduate degree program.  Dean Katehi agreed to this suggestion.

The final report included all the provisions above to form the new Department of Engineering Education. Dean Katehi obtained approval from the Provost and the Purdue Board of Trustees in 2004 and the Indiana Commission on Higher Education in 2005.

Armstrong Hall The Founding Head of the new Department of Engineering Education was Kamyar Haghighi. In February 2008 Dean Leah Jamieson obtained administrative approval to change the departmental name to the School of Engineering Education—the first in the nation! Kamyar Haghighi continued as Founding Head until 2009. Professor David Radcliffe served as Interim Head for one year and became Head of the new school in 2010.

Located in Armstrong Hall (ARMS) with the School of Materials Engineering, the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Dean’s administrative offices, the new School of Engineering Education serves as the gateway for all first-year students who enter the College of Engineering. Like a favorite professor whose influence continues for decades, Armstrong Hall will be remembered affectionately for its dominant role in the First-Year Engineering Experience.

The last decade has been exciting! New chapters in the history of the School of Engineering Education will emerge over the next decade and beyond as the tradition of innovation continues.


This brief and fragmented personal memoir reviews three major transformations in engineering education at Purdue University: 1932-37, 1951-56, and 2000-08. Each period of change has been creative, euphoric, progressive and rewarding. If the past really is prologue to the future, imagine how Purdue University might next shape the future of engineering education throughout the world…



I wish to dedicate this memoir to my wife, Connie, and to our daughter, Virginia; we have worked together as a team for over 50 years. Their keen memories helped to clarify many events from the past. I also wish to thank countless faculty members, classmates, students and staff that I have known at Purdue since 1947. Every one of them has helped to shape my perspective about Freshman Engineering and its rich tradition of helping first-year students succeed.



Engineers’ Council for Professional Development.  Annual Reports.  1932-1937; 1955; 2000 (ABET). New York.

Purdue University.  Bulletins and Catalogs, Engineering.  1934-35; 1956-57; 2010-11.  West Lafayette.

Eckles, R. B.  The Dean, A Biography of A. A. Potter.  West Lafayette: Purdue University, 1974.

A. A. Potter Papers, 1893-1986.  West Lafayette: Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections.

McDowell, R. W.  “Looking Back.”  Historical Data of the Department of Freshman Engineering [Fragmented notes by R. W. McDowell and R. E. Grace, 1990 et seq.]  West Lafayette: Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections.

National Academy of Engineering.  The Engineer of 2020.  Washington: The National Academies Press, 2004.

National Academy of Engineering, Educating the Engineer of 2020.  Washington:  The National Academies Press, 2005.

Richard E. Grace. “Oral History.” [CD and Transcription]  West Lafayette: Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections, May 29, 2008.

Extraordinary People, Global ImpactCollege of Engineering Strategic Plan, 2009-2014.  West Lafayette: Purdue University, 2010.


About the Author

Richard E. Grace entered Purdue University as a freshman engineering student in September 1947. He was awarded the B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering in June 1951 and immediately entered graduate school at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University). He completed the Ph.D. degree in August 1954 and joined the Purdue faculty as Assistant Professor of Metallurgical Engineering in September 1954. Grace rose through the ranks to Associate Professor in 1958 and Professor of Metallurgical Engineering in 1962. He has served as Head of the School of Metallurgical Engineering; Founding Head of the Division of Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies; Head of the Department of Freshman Engineering and Assistant Dean of Engineering; Vice President for Student Services; and Founding Head of the Undergraduate Studies Program of Purdue University.

Grace is a Fellow of the American Society for Metals (ASM), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and ABET. He has won numerous awards including the Centennial Medal of ASEE and the L. E. Grinter award of ABET for distinguished service.

Grace’s credo for continuous improvement always has been, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” In 2002 he published a popular book, When Every Day Is Saturday, The Retirement Guide for Boomers, and the Purdue University Press published a second edition in 2010. True to expectations, the Grace Retirement Inventory (GRI) is a quantitative guide to retirement planning.

Grace retired from Purdue University in 2000 after serving 46 years on the faculty. He and his wife, Connie, reside in West Lafayette and Longboat Key, Florida.

Manuscript for memoir completed December 1, 2010.

Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana