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A Brief History from 1885 to 1958

Early History of the Department

compiled by Professor James Dornbush in 1958

The Civil Engineering Department of South Dakota State College is one of the oldest departments on campus, being established in 1885 along with the establishment of the South Dakota State College.  As it was initially set up under the Mathematics Department head, the department's first acting head was George Lilley, A.M., Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics and Engineering.  He served during the period 1885-1888.  In 1889, William H. H. Phillips, A.M., Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics and Engineering, assumed the responsibilities of the Civil Engineering Department, and served until 1896.  From 1897 to 1900, Addison Roberts Saunders, M.E., Professor of Architectural and Agricultural Engineering, acted as Department Head.  

The first Civil Engineering department head as such came into being in 1900 in the person of Austin Benjamin Crane, B.S., Professor of Civil Engineering and Agricultural Engineering.  Professor Crane served in that capacity until 1906, at which time Homer Munro Derr, A.B., A.M., Ph.D., assumed the responsibilities.  Professor Derr remained until 1913 being replaced by Professor Albert Jones Willis who was department head from 1913 to 1918.  In 1919, Professor David L. Snader, C.E., M.S., was appointed head of the department.  Professor Snader served until 1923 during which time the department had grown to the point where another staff member was required.  The first additional staff member for the department was Mr. Lawrence Maugh, B.S., Instructor, appointed in 1921.  From 1924 to 1935, the department was under the guidance of Associate Professor Harold S. Carter, B.S., M.S.  

In the year 1929, the Civil Engineering staff was increased to three members and in 1930 to four members.  One of the four members of the staff of 1930 was Assistant Professor Howard Blodgett, B.S., M.S., C.E., who later, in 1936, became Head of the Civil Engineering Department and Professor of Civil Engineering.  In 1941, Professor Blodgett became Acting Dean of the Engineering Division, at which time Professor Calvin Oleson was named Acting Head of the Civil Engineering Department serving as such until 1944.  In 1945, Professor Blodgett assumed the responsibilities of Department Head in addition to his duties as acting Dean of Engineering.  He served as such until 1947 when he accepted an offer from the University of Nevada.  It was January of 1947 when Professor Emory E. Johnson, B.S., M.S., assumed duties as the department head. Professor Johnson served as head of the department from 1947.

First Graduates

The first graduate in Civil Engineering was William F. Allison, White, South Dakota, in 1895.  Mr. Allison completed his four year course of study during the years 1886, 1893, 1894, and 1895.  Prior to 1910, there were twelve students graduated in Civil Engineering.  From 1910 to 1919, the number increased to 26; 1920 to 1929 there were 77; 1930 to 1939 there were 97; 1940 to 1949 there were 87; and from 1950 to 1959 there were 199 graduates.  The largest graduating class graduated in 1951 with a total of 35.  Starting in 1920, the Civil Engineering department experienced continual growth both in students and staff.  A student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers was founded in 1933 and has ranked as one of the best student chapters in the United States.

Undergraduate program

The undergraduate program has always emphasized a strong basic program in engineering fundamentals along with a broad training in general education.  The first curriculum in the 1886 catalog included basic courses in Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Mechanics, along with such courses as Latin, Political Economy and Zoology.The curriculum has been modified continuously but still includes basic Mathematics, Sciences, and Mechanics.  As the field of Civil Engineering has expanded, the curriculum has provided an opportunity for the students to specialize to a limited extent.  In 1958, electives were offered in the areas of Structures, Sanitary Engineering, Transportation, Irrigation, and Construction.

Course of Instruction 1886

TermFreshman yearSophomore yearJunior yearSenior year
IGeometry 5
Rhetoric  5
General History  2
German, Latin, or Bookkeeping  3
Drawing  1
Military  1
           17 units
Algebra  3
Trigonometry  3
Botany  3
Chemistry  3
Physics  2
German or Latin  2
Laboratory Practice  2
Military  1
           19 units
Analytical Geometry  5
Field Practice  1
Analytical Mechanics  4
Railroad Surveying  4
Calculus  5
Physics  3
Two Dissertations
          22 units
Roof & Bridge Structures  5
Designing  3
Geology & Mineralogy  5
Psychology  5
Two Dissertations
          18 units
IIGeometry  5
Rhetoric  4
General History  2
German, Latin, or Bookkeeping  2
Drawing  1
Military  1
          15 units
Trigonometry  2
Analytical Geom.  3
Chemistry  3
Lab Practice  2
Physics  3
German or Latin  3
Military  1
          17 units
Field Practice & Office work  3
Analytical Mechanics  3
Political Economy  5
Stereotomy  2
Draughting  3
Two dissertations
         16 units
Roof & Bridge Structures  5
Designing  3
Practical Astronomy  5
Docks, Retaining Walls, & Sanitary Engineering  5
Two Dissertations
          18 units
IIIHigher Algebra  5
Botany  5
German or Latin  5
Drawing  1
Military  1
          17 units
Chemistry  3
Lab Practice  2
Physics  2
English Lit.  3
German or Latin  2
Analytical Geom.  2
Land Surveying  3
          17 units
Constitutional Hist.  5
Zoology  5
Field Practice & Office work  5
Two dissertations
          15 units
Roof & Bridge Structures  5
Designing  3
History of Society, German or French  5
Commercial Law  3
Preparation of Thesis 
          16 units