The history of Wentworth Institute of Technology begins, of course, with the school's founder, Arioch Wentworth.
Arioch's father, Bartholomew Wentworth Bartholomew Wentworth wanted his oldest son to study law at Dartmouth College. Instead, Arioch moved to Boston to learn the soapstone trade from the ground up.
He was born in 1813 in Somersworth, NH, in the house pictured here. His family was well known in New Hampshire, three generations of Arioch's uncles had served as royal governors. In 1833, at the age of 20, Arioch Wentworth moved to Boston, Mass., where he entered the soapstone trade. He eventually opened his own soapstone shop, which he ran until 1850.
That year, he jumped to the marble trade. Over the next 36 years, he built a great fortune in marble, dominating the Boston market. His mechanical ingenuity has much to do with this—Arioch alone is able to build machinery that can cut and fashion marble into ornate moldings. Upon retiring in 1886, Arioch multiplied his fortune many times over with savvy real estate investments. At the turn of the century, he owned more than 50 commercial properties in Boston.
When he died on March 12, 1903, at the age of 89, Arioch Wentworth's estate was worth more than $7 million. His last will and testament, written two months before he died, directed the bulk of this fortune to be used to "found a school to furnish education in the mechanical arts," and he named seven directors to oversee this request. The will was contested by his daughter, Susan, and after nine months of negotiation, Arioch Wentworth's estate was halved—his family and the directors of Wentworth Institute each were left with approximately $3.5 million.
Arioch Wentworth and his wife and daughter, each named Susan, are buried at the world-famous Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass.
Starting a school from scratch is not easy business, but Arioch Wentworth chose his seven directors wisely. On April 5, 1904, they incorporated Wentworth Institute as a school "to furnish education in the mechanical arts." The directors accomplished four major tasks during the next seven-and-a-half years:
- they nurtured the endowment;
- they found a city location for their campus;
- they determined exactly what, how, and to whom the Institute should teach;
- they found an experienced technical educator to lead the school.
The date of incorporation, April 5, has been known ever since 1904 as Founder's Day.
Paul Watson was lawyer to Arioch Wentworth late in the founder's life; he was the man who drew up Arioch's will in 1903. As treasurer of Wentworth Institute from its founding in 1904 until 1948, he managed the Institute's endowment masterfully.
On November 17, 1908, the directors purchased two tracts of land from the Sewall & Day Cordage Company—the "triangle" where Sweeney Field sits today and, across Ruggles Street, the bulk of today's campus.
Now that they had land, the directors could start building a campus. They broke ground in 1910 on the first two buildings of Wentworth Institute: the Power Plant and the Shop Building, which is today called Williston Hall. It cost a quarter of a million dollars to construct these two facilities.
A drawing of Wentworth Hall, flanked by Dobbs Hall and Williston Hall, date unknown.
On September 25, 1911, seven-and-a-half years after the school was founded, Wentworth Institute opened its doors to 242 students. The director, Arthur L. Williston, placed a "hands-on" stamp on the Institute from the first day. As he wrote, "The purpose here is to train young men for efficiency in skilled trades. The instruction, therefore, is designed to cultivate intelligence as well as manual skill and dexterity." Under Williston's leadership, the Institute quickly found its pace as a technical school, and enrollment tripled during his 12 years as principal.
242 students arrive for the first day of classes at Wentworth Institute; there were 10 programs in which they could enroll, including foundry practice, machine work, and electric wiring.
Wentworth's first principal came from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was head of the School of Science and Technology. He played a huge part in shaping how technical education is taught in this country.
Principal Williston recruited 19 men to form the first faculty of Wentworth Institute; most came directly from industry rather than academia.
Note the tuition of $6 per term. The directors had considered charging no tuition at all, but ultimately decided to charge just enough to prevent unmotivated students from applying on a whim.
"Hands on" from day one….
Note how young some of these students look. Several, in fact, were probably about 16 years old. For many years, Wentworth did not require its applicants to be high school graduates.
The USA entered World War I on April 6, 1917. In short time, the federal government asked Wentworth Institute to use its facilities and faculty to provide technical training to soldiers. The most intensive of these efforts was the training of a regiment known as the 101st Engineers Corps. These recruits pitched tents on the Wentworth triangle (it was called "Camp Wentworth"), and learned military engineering skills at the Institute. Over the course of 18 months, Wentworth faculty trained several detachments, consisting of more than 4,000 recruits.
Members of the Army Corps of Engineers in the foreground, 1917
When Arthur Williston resigned in 1923, the directors turned to one of the Institute's original faculty members, Frederick E. Dobbs, to take on the job of principal. Dobbs remained in the job for 28 years, the longest tenure of any leader in Wentworth's history. The Dobbs era at Wentworth Institute reflected the qualities of the principal himself: solid and reliable, earnest and hard working. While the Institute made no earth-shattering changes during the three decades Dobbs was at the helm, it did strengthen its position as one of the finest technical institutes in the country.
Principal Dobbs (right) in 1950, examining a helicopter in Rubenstein Hall. After leaving Wentworth in 1952, Dobbs consulted for the Ford Foundation, transplanting in locales such as Pakistan and India the same style of technical institute he had overseen for 28 years at Wentworth.
The artwork here captures the Wentworth essence nicely: It's 1932 and America's in the midst of the Great Depression. How do you pull yourself out of that hole? Well, you pick up a trowel and some blueprints and you get the hell to work. That's the Wentworth Way!
For the first half of the century, Wentworth was entirely a commuter school. The first on-campus dormitory would not arrive until 1956.
In 1937, Wentworth Institute's physical plant was made up of four buildings plus a power plant. Today, the campus has grown to 22 facilities. Note also that baseball and football were played on the quad during the Dobbs era.
Wentworth played 15 seasons of football from 1933 to 1951. The school's record was 53-22-12. During that stretch, they shut out their opponents an amazing 48 times!
Much as had happened during World War I, Wentworth was again called to duty shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. This time, it ran the Naval Training School for the government. More than 10,000 men went through one of several 16-week training sessions. They emerged as machinist's mates, 1st class.
Two big differences from the WWI experience, though:
- The school shut down normal operations entirely. No "civilian" instruction was offered in 1944 and 1945.
- The Navy recruits did not pitch tents on campus. Instead, they bunked at the Somerset Hotel at Kenmore Square, and every day they marched the mile to and from Wentworth.
Wentworth's first president arrived in 1953 from Pratt Institute. H. Russell Beatty was a true visionary—a man consistently ahead of his time in issues relating to engineering technology education. More than anyone else, he is responsible for Wentworth's leadership in the field. His 18-year tenure is highlighted by a number of landmark accomplishments:
- the granting of associate's degrees in 1957;
- the introduction of a baccalaureate-level upper-division in 1970;
- the debut of many new and innovative academic programs;
- a building boon; he tripled the size of the Boston campus;
- the establishment of a residential component on campus;
- the tripling of student enrollment.
In the tally of individuals who have made an impact on the destiny of Wentworth Institute, Russ Beatty ranks second only to Arioch Wentworth.
This State House signing of an amended charter was an important day in the Institute's history; it granted Wentworth the right to offer associate's degrees. Historically, the signing marks the transition from Wentworth's first stage of development (a sort of high-octane trade school) to its next stage (a junior college and trendsetter in engineering technology education).
The late John Volpe, shown here with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is the most famous alumnus in Wentworth history. He was a 1930 architectural construction graduate who built a successful construction company, then entered politics with a bang in the '50s. He was Eisenhower's first federal highway administrator. Then, in 1961 he was elected to the first of three terms as governor of Massachusetts. He later became Nixon's Secretary of Transportation and, finally, Ambassador to Italy.
An overhead view of a campus on the verge of massive growth. Beatty was an excellent builder; During his 18 years, he greenlighted the construction of five new buildings on the Boston campus (comprising 222,000 square feet) and the acquisition of four more (totaling 216,000 square feet). A third of these buildings were residence halls, signaling an evolution toward an increasingly residential campus.
The first few concrete forms of Wentworth's long-anticipated "general purpose" building. Upon its completion, the trustees insisted that it be named Beatty Hall, in tribute to the president who had contributed so much to the Institute's progress.
In 1957 Wentworth purchased a big chunk of land in Plainville, Mass., to offer the best possible instruction to students in the civil engineering technology and building construction programs. For close to 40 years, this satellite campus served very nicely as a 155-acre laboratory. The Institute sold the land to developers in 1999. It's now a golf course called Wentworth Hills.
The last great accomplishment of President Beatty: in 1970 the baccalaureate-level Wentworth College was founded. For seven years, this upper-division College was operated as a separate entity from the two-year Institute.
Edward T. Kirkpatrick was appointed Wentworth's second president in 1971. He had been dean of the College of Engineering at Rochester Institute of Technology. The first six years of his presidency were a remarkably active period, witnessing the advent of three landmark changes at the school:
- the admission of women in 1972;
- the introduction of cooperative education in 1975;
- the merging of the lower and upper divisions in 1977.
Each of these changes transformed the school, and ushered in the Wentworth Institute of Technology that we know today.
President Kirkpatrick was no less a builder than his legendary predecessor, H. Russell Beatty. During the Kirkpatrick era, Wentworth's enrollment doubled, the Institute's endowment tripled, and the size of the campus increased by 100 percent.
When the American Society of Engineering Education awarded Dr. Kirkpatrick the James H. McGraw Award in 1989, President Edmund Cranch wrote, "In my opinion, Ted Kirkpatrick is the leading engineering technology educator in the United States."
Wentworth changed forever, and for the better, when five women enrolled in the fall of 1972. Male students outnumbered them 353 to 1 that year. Today, women represent about 18 percent of the student population at Wentworth Institute of Technology.
Cooperative education began at Wentworth in 1975, when 28 members of the mechanical engineering technology class of 1977 (pictured here with their families) road-tested the program for the Institute. Today co-op is Wentworth's crown jewel. An estimated 60 percent of Wentworth graduates each year take their first full-time job with an employer for whom they had previously worked a co-op.
"Wentworth Institute of Technology" was born in 1977 when the two-year Institute officially merged with the baccalaureate-level College.
Wentworth's faculty unionized in 1973 and they remain members of Local 2403 to this day. On October 28, 1977, after six months of unsuccessful bargaining, 117 Wentworth faculty members went on strike. Professors picketed the grounds and classes were cancelled for two full weeks.
With enrollments soaring to record levels in the early '80s, Wentworth made two Parker Street purchases to help accommodate the growth. In 1980 they acquired the Ira Allen School; and in 1983 they bought Boston Trade High School. Wentworth negotiated a savvy purchase—virtually no money changed hands. Instead, Wentworth guaranteed to the City of Boston 13 full scholarships per year to residents. Following substantial renovation, the two buildings have been a major part of the Wentworth campus ever since.
John Van Domelen, a civil and environmental engineer, arrived in 1990 from Norwich University, where he was vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. Below are but a few of the accomplishments that have highlighted his tenure to date:
- an across-the-board upgrading of academics, including an array of accreditation successes;
- the introduction of accredited professional engineering programs;
- wide-scale improvement of labs, facilities, and faculty qualifications;
- building of new facilities to support the Institute's mission;
- the birth of a real sense of community on campus;
- and sports teams that actually win!
Dr. Van Domelen took an already strong institution and made it measurably stronger.
A major steppingstone in Wentworth's maturation as a first-rate baccalaureate teaching institution was its decision to begin offering the bachelor of architecture degree program. When the registration board for architects came to Wentworth in the early 1980s with a proposal for establishing a professional degree program, the Institute listened carefully. The charter was amended in 1984 to enable the program to be offered. Next, the Institute made a major investment in facility upgrades, spending a million dollars in 1991 to build a studio in the third floor of the Annex building. Finally, in 1992 Wentworth Institute of Technology received retroactive accreditation from the National Architectural Accrediting Board, academia's equivalent of the Good Housekeeping seal of approval. The program has been one of Wentworth's most successful ever since.
In 1993, Wentworth introduced a pair of five-year engineering programs (as opposed to engineering technology) into the curriculum: electromechanical engineering and environmental engineering. The first class of electromechanical engineering graduates (1998) is shown here. In the summer of 2002, these programs received initial accreditation from the Engineering Accreditation Commission.
This is how Sweeney Field looked the day it opened in the Fall of 1996. It was built courtesy of a generous gift from the late Myles Sweeney '28 and his wife, Eugenia. The field is a symbol of the progress Wentworth has made in enhancing student life in recent years. And from an athletic standpoint, it's also reinforced the benefits of a homefield. Since 1996, the men's and women's soccer teams have enjoyed a combined home record of 81-27-2. That's a 75% winning record. Thank you, Myles and Eugenia Sweeney!
In the fall of 2001, a new residence hall opened at 610 Huntington Avenue. The opening of this 473-bed residence hall officially ended Wentworth's run as predominantly a commuter school. For the first time in the school's history, resident students now outnumber commuters on campus.
With one or two exceptions—football in the '30s and '40s, a couple of baseball teams in the '60s—Wentworth, for much of its history, had little to crow about in the sports arena. A member of the NCAA since 1984, any records the Institute set during its first 12 years as a member were records of futility. That changed for the good in the mid-'90s. Now Wentworth operates on the theory of: "If you're going to play, you might as well play to win." Shown here is the ice hockey squad, which in 2003 won its third conference championship of the past four years.
As part of a new technology initiative, the Wentworth Laptop Program provided all incoming students with a laptop computer. Presently under the program, laptops are capable of running the high-end software that is customized to meet both the academic requirements and current industry demands for each specific major.
Dr. Pantić is currently leading Wentworth at an exciting time in the Institute’s history, which is marked by several milestones:
- Expansion into engineering-specific bachelor’s degree programs, as well as a three-year applied mathematics program
- Restructuring the academic organization into a four college system
- The Institute’s first master’s programs in architecture and construction management
- Construction of two new and renovated facilities–a modern campus center and a Center for Sciences and Biomedical Engineering
In her first year, President Pantić represented Wentworth at international expositions for the first time, such as the one in China in July, 2006. She also appointed the first-ever Strategic Planning Steering Committee (SPSC) and charged both this group and the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) of the Board of Trustees to develop a five year Strategic Plan. The Board of Trustees ratified the 2006-2011 Strategic Plan, which became effective that October 2006. As a result of the Strategic Plan, a new Center of Teaching and Learning (CTL) (photo to the right) was opened at Wentworth.
Wentworth responds to hurricane Katrina, first by allowing displaced by the hurricane college students to attend the Institute until their return to New Orleans, and second by sending faculty and students to New Orleans for reconstruction assistance. Wentworth’s contributions to Hurricane Katrina is estimated at $100,000.
Generous philanthropist and WIT corporator, William “Bill” Flanagan, Machine Construction and Toll Design ’51, makes the largest gift in the Institute’s history, a $10 million dollar charity gift annuity. The gift is to be used for the construction of a new campus center to be named in Mr. Flanagan’s honor.
July 2008 marks a milestone, as WIT submits to NEASC a proposal for its first ever graduate program the Master of Architecture degree (MArch). In November, NEASC notifies WIT that the July proposal is accepted and the Institute could proceed with its plan to offer a MArch degree.
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selects WIT for the classification “Community Engagement” under the section “Curricular Engagement & Outreach and Partnerships”. The classification represents WIT’s commitment to service learning and civic engagement. In addition, the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is awarded by President Bush to Wentworth for extraordinary and exemplary community service contributions. // Center for Community & Learning Partnerships
2010 also saw several changes to Wentworth’s academic curriculum. The Master of Science in Construction Management (MSCM) program was launched, and the Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering programs were also introduced. On November 18, 2010, Wentworth announced its intent to restructure its academic programs. This undertaking sorted Wentworth’s existing programs into four colleges: the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Management; the College of Arts and Sciences; the College of Engineering and Technology; and the College of Professional and Continuing Education. The reorganization plan went into effect in January 2011.
On September 16, 2010, Wentworth alumnus Jack Smith (class of 1958) and his wife, Lillian, launched the “$1 Million Challenge.” Under this program, Jack and Lillian Smith donated $500,000 to Wentworth, and pledged to donated another $500,000 if donations by alumni, family, friends, and supporters increased by ten percent. All donations were to be awarded to dedicated students in need of financial assistance.
Wentworth continued to show its dedication to humanitarian projects in 2010. Wentworth also introduced its Train the Trainer program, which taught project management and construction management skills to Haitian professionals seeking to assist in Haiti’s recovery efforts.