Southern Methodist University School of Engineering records
A Guide to the Collection
Southern Methodist University in Dallas was chartered in 1911 and opened for classes in the fall of 1915. Two schools were established in 1925: law and engineering. The SMU School of Engineering was created thanks to the efforts of the Technical Club of Dallas, the North Texas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and the university.
The original idea of founding an engineering school at the new university in Dallas appears to have come from the Technical Club of Dallas. The organization was made up of engineers throughout the southwest region of the United States who represented the several different branches of engineering.
The idea for the new engineering school, approved by the Board of Trustees in February 1925, was for a cooperative method of education in which students would engage in classroom learning and acquire practical experience by working in regional companies. Engineering students rotated between four weeks of classes and four weeks of industry training. The course of study for SMU’s engineering school provided for a five-year program; upon completion students received a B.S. degree in engineering.
In its early years, SMU housed all of its classes and administrative operations in Dallas Hall, but it embarked on its second round of campus building in the 1920s. This period saw the completion of McFarlin Auditorium, Kirby Hall to house the School of Theology, and a frame building for the School of Engineering. The building and equipment needs of the engineering school were met with a $10,000 donation through the combined efforts of the Technical Club and the American Institute of Architects. Faculty salaries were paid from student tuition.
The new engineering school was not at all lacking in applicants. Incoming classes of 60 were expected, but the 1925-1926 academic year actually began with 126 engineering students. SMU thereafter set a ceiling of 120 students for each incoming freshmen class. As with the SMU School of Law, the engineering school did not initially have all five years’ worth of courses available. The first year course load was the only one offered in the fall of 1925, with the full course of study available by the 1929-1930 academic year.
The Technical Club provided further assistance by pairing the new school with local companies where students would receive their workplace training. In its first several years the School of Engineering partnered with thirty to forty different firms located in several cities across Texas.
Funding was not a problem through the second year of operations, but the curriculum called for third-year engineering students to select an area of specialization in either civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering. This required more funding for faculty and equipment costs. With the beginning and persistence of the Depression, funding remained a constant source of concern, as did the diminished number of companies that were financially able to take on engineering students as trainees.
Earl Hugo Flath served as Engineering’s first dean. Dean E. H. Flath guided the new school through its early years until his retirement in 1960.
Early curriculum changes included the elimination of architecture courses (the school was briefly named the School of Engineering and Architecture), as well as the discontinuation of the Bachelor of Science in Engineering Chemistry Program. The four-week periods of classroom and industry training were changed to six-week intervals beginning in the 1938-1939 academic year, and although the school began offering professional degrees in electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering in 1940 to complement its undergraduate degrees in those areas, the professional degree programs were dropped in 1958 due to lack of students.
During the World War II years the School of Engineering participated in three defense-related programs that provided training for both students and defense employees: the Civilian Pilot Training program, the Engineering Defense Training Program (later renamed the Engineering, Science, and Management Defense Training Program), and the Navy College Training Program (commonly referred to as the V-12 program).
SMU’s School of Engineering experienced the same jump in enrollment that many other educational institutions did in the postwar years. The school awarded 17 degrees to its first graduating class in 1930; 40 were granted in 1940, and 206 by 1950.
After three years of holding classes in the original one-story wood frame building, the engineering school received space in Patterson Hall in 1928. A new engineering building, Caruth Hall, was built in the late 1940s, and a smaller building with lab space was completed in 1951. During the 1950s, nautical engineering equipment, a supersonic wind tunnel, a Univac Scientific Computer, and later a Univac analog computer, were all acquired as part of the continuing efforts to improve the school.
The SMU Foundation for Science and Engineering was founded in 1965 to provide funding for school projects and keep the school in touch with developments in the engineering industry. More emphasis was placed on research, and the school was renamed the SMU Institute of Technology. A Ph.D. program in engineering was created, and the school made greater use of technology via televised classes.
The engineering school was the target of proposed budget cuts in the late 1980s. Incoming President A. Kenneth Pye confronted with increasing university debt and the aftermath of the "death penalty" football scandal, advocated the elimination of the civil and mechanical engineering department as part of a series of cost-saving measures unveiled in late 1989. Pye noted the declining number of students enrolled in the department, and argued that the move would benefit the electrical engineering, computer science, and operations research areas of the engineering school. The faculty argued that the proposal would lead to reduced enrollment and a weaker engineering program overall. President Pye later revised his proposal, and only the civil engineering program was cut.
The School of Engineering has been marked by physical expansion, student growth, and a new school name during the late 1990s through 2009. The Jerry R. Junkins Building, containing classrooms and electrical engineering labs, opened in 2002. Although Junkins was the first building constructed for the engineering school in half a century, the school received another new building in 2006; the J. Lindsey Embrey Building became the home of the Environmental and Civil and Mechanical Engineering departments. And construction on a new J.J. Caruth Hall (to replace the original Caruth Hall opened in 1948), which will house the Engineering Management, Information and Systems, and Computer Science and Engineering departments, began in 2008. The new Caruth Hall will be the final addition to SMU’s engineering complex.
The school also received a new name in the fall of 2008. Engineering was the only school within SMU that had not been named for a donor, but with a donation from SMU alum (and founder of Lyco Energy) Bobby Lyle that year, the school was renamed the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering. Mr. Lyle’s donation, combined with the proceeds from a fundraising drive, were to be used for a lab similar to that used by aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin in the design of military aircraft (the first such lab built for an American university), additional engineering programs at SMU to be conducted in partnership with Lockheed Martin, the establishment of a new Center for Engineering Leadership, and a new engineering minor.
"All Eyes on SMU’s New Junkins Building." Dallas Morning News, August 22, 2002, pg. 18A.
Miller, Robert. "Work Starting on SMU’s Caruth Hall." Dallas Morning News, May 9, 2008, pg. 2D.
Norris, Mark. "Engineering School to Bear Oilman’s Name—Dallas Man’s Gift is Part of Efforts to Raise Profile of Program." Dallas Morning News, October 17, 2008, pg. 3B.
O’Neill, James M. "Designing a Greener Building: SMU Engineering an Earth-Friendly Campus." Dallas Morning News, September 3, 2006, pg. 1B.
Pryzant, Connie. "SMU Engineering Cutbacks Debated." Dallas Morning News, September 3, 1989, pg. 34A.
Pryzant, Connie. "SMU Trustees OK Proposals Including Budget Cuts." Dallas Morning News, December 2, 1989, pg. 36A.
Schulz, David Alex. "1925-1985: Sixty Years of Engineering Change." SMU Engineer, No. 85-3.
Thomas, Mary Martha Hosford. Southern Methodist University: Founding and Early Years. Dallas: SMU Press, 1974.
Wertheimer, Linda K. "Building Prestige at SMU—New $15 Million Facility May Put School on Engineering Map." Dallas Morning News, August 21, 2002.
Series 1 contains records related to engineering administration, faculty, and students. Faculty meeting minutes, directories, correspondence and survey information from former students, and some historical information are all included. Users should note that this series also has some records pertaining to general university committees, such as the SMU Master Plan of the early 1960s; the scope of the committee material in this series is not confined only to the engineering school.
Series 2 holds material on academic development and offerings. Arranged alphabetically, the series includes information on programs/department offerings within the engineering school. Records on both undergraduate and graduate courses of study are included.
It is important to note that some of the printed material in this series—pamphlets with information on particular engineering programs—are also found in Series 4. They have been placed in two different series because they contain both admissions and program information.
Series 3 is mostly made up of scrapbooks with news clippings and other printed material on various activities and newsworthy events at the engineering school over a roughly forty-year time period. The pages have been removed from their original binders; users should use caution when handling the pages, as many of the clippings are coming unglued. One folder of records related to the history of the school is also included.
Series 4 contains reports and records on general school information and activities. Admissions pamphlets, records on engineering fraternities, reports on the school’s accreditation process, scholarships, school events, and school publications are all included.
Most of the collection is arranged by topic in alphabetical order. Most of the material in Series 3 has been arranged chronologically.
Access to Collection:
Collection is open for research use.
Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.
Southern Methodist University School of Engineering records, Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.
Paul H. Santa Cruz, 2009.
Lara Corazalla, 2010.
Detailed Description of the Collection