Phillips Bradford ’62 remembered being completely bowled over upon his first introduction to the Hopkins dorm where he’d spend the next four years.
“We had a suite with a fireplace in it, and there was a man who would bring firewood up for us to use. We had maid service. And food was never far away; there was a dining hall in the central entrance to our dorms,” said Bradford. “I just thought the facilities were magnificent!”
Bradford lived in Wilson Hall, one of the 14 “houses” comprising the Alumni Memorial Residences (AMRs). This was the era when Hopkins men were expected to don jacket and tie before heading to dinner. Most everyone had a phonograph in his room (rock ’n’ roll’s arrival made Elvis Presley a particular favorite), but Bradford had the only TV set. He recalled one World Series that drew everyone into his room to huddle around his grainy, eight-inch black-and-white set.
Perhaps Bradford’s fondest memories of dorm living were the regular visits made by Hopkins University President Milton S. Eisenhower. “He would come and sit and chat with us and have bull sessions for two hours at a time. That was a very important touch for us, particularly since his brother was the President of the United States.”
The Battle of the Terrapin
The legendary lacrosse rivalry between Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland came to a rowdy climax on an action-filled night in May 1947 on the eve of the national championship.
A few days earlier, a group of zealous Maryland fans had descended on Homewood and reportedly smeared paint on sidewalks and buildings.
With their honor at stake, a score of brave Hopkins students kidnapped “Testudo,” Maryland’s 400-pound bronze terrapin, and brought him back to the Alumni Memorial Residence. Then they prepared for retaliation by creating an impregnable fortress. Upperclassmen shouted orders to coordinate the placement of soap chips and powerful fire hoses while others surrounded the building with barbed wire.
When 250 incensed Maryland students descended at around 2 am on May 23, the Hopkins men were ready; they unleashed the hoses, dousing both students and some 200 Baltimore City police officers. Some Maryland students got past the initial defenses, only to slip on the soap chips. The police finally wrested control at approximately 4 am, arresting eight Maryland students and three Hopkins students for disorderly conduct.
The Hopkins men did return Testudo—but not before painting a large H on his shell in traditional Hopkins blue.
When Aerodynamics Took Wing
Francis Clauser founded the department in 1946 at the behest of University President Isaiah Bowman and others. World War II had proved that aeronautics was going to play a major role in modern warfare and they wanted the burgeoning field studied at Hopkins. From its inception, the Aeronautics Department worked closely with research institutions and government labs such as Applied Physics Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, and the Naval Ordnance Lab, with personnel from these labs giving specialized courses to students.
Key to the department’s work was the construction of a supersonic wind tunnel, funded by the Navy, which took three years to build and was completed in 1951. Aeronautics researchers relied on the wind tunnel to conduct experiments on turbulence and friction at subsonic and supersonic speeds—up to twice the speed of sound.
In 1950, the department appointed Leslie G. Kovasznay, a renowned expert in turbulence, to the department. Other notable hires under Clauser’s tenure (1946-1960) were Guy L. Bryan, Stanley Corrsin, Mark Morkovin, and Robert Betchov. Throughout the 1950s, the department’s examination of fluid mechanics and supersonic flow laid the groundwork for understanding what happened when missiles or airplanes go supersonic, and formed the basic principles that would affect aircraft design and flight at below the speed of sound.
Today, the Corssin Wind Tunnel—named after Stanley Corrsin, who built the facility to study the fundamentals of wind flow—makes its home in the basement of Maryland Hall. Many landmark studies on turbulence are based on measurements that were made in the tunnel, and it continues to provide a powerful tool for Whiting School engineers investigating subjects ranging from wind farms to earthquake protection.
At the entrance of Clark Hall, a plaque reads: “The story of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins began on September 22, 1940, in a small room in the Wilmer Eye Institute. A. McGehee (“Mac”) Harvey, a young resident physician on the Osler Medical Service, enlisted the help of Samuel A. Talbot to do quantitative recordings of muscle action potentials of human subjects.”
This partnership, which led to the creation of a biophysical division in the Department of Medicine, launched the nation’s first and most innovative program aimed at improving human health through research at the nexus of engineering, biology, and medicine. The next half century led to breakthroughs that used engineering principles to model biological and medical systems. The result fundamentally changed the way researchers understand the mechanics of the human body. Eventually, this basic science gave rise to new areas of research such as bioinformatics, computational biology, medical imaging, and systems neuroscience.
This was an era when research giants such as Dick J. Johns (Med ’48), David A. Robinson, Murray B. Sachs, Eric Young, Artin Shoukas, and Kiichi Sagawara worked at the forefront of understanding how nerves, ears, eyes, and the heart work.
Johns, the department’s founding chair (1965 to 1991), went on to help develop a 3-D radiography system that would give physicians a “real” image and allow for structures behind dense organs to be observed; it proved revolutionary to imaging science.
In the 1970s, researchers helped refine pacemaker technology when they invented the first implantable device that could be recharged inside the body. A decade later, biomedical engineers developed the first implantable defibrillator.
Today, the Department of Biomedical Engineering straddles the schools of Medicine and Engineering, with faculty, laboratories, and students on both campuses.
The Merger—and Rebirth of Engineering at Johns Hopkins
“Am I foremost a scientist or an engineer?” That was the question in the 1960s, when an influential group of engineering faculty answered “scientist” and a faculty vote effectively made the School of Engineering disappear for 13 years.
The beginning of the end came in 1961 when the school changed its name to the School of Engineering Sciences &mdash “to insure that Hopkins will continue to produce engineers who are truly educated and creative individuals, not merely cogs in an increasingly complex industrial machine,” in the words of Hopkins President Milton S. Eisenhower.
Departmental lines had begun to blur, and the engineering school had become closer to its Homewood counterpart, the Faculty of Philosophy. With de-specialization of the engineering program, the undergraduate curricula shared structure and content. Students from each division took courses in the other.
Against this backdrop, unification seemed almost inevitable. On July 1, 1966, with little fanfare, the two divisions merged to become the Johns Hopkins School of Arts and Sciences.
While Dean Rob Roy remained as dean of engineering, he was, as he put it, “a dean without portfolio”—and by the mid-1970s, engineering was a minority voice at Johns Hopkins. The number of engineering faculty dropped nearly in half, down to 44 at one point. Many believed that engineering had lost its way.
In 1976 then University President Steven Muller appointed a blue-ribbon committee on engineering chaired by Lawrence R. Hafstad, PhD ’33 (A&S). The committee’s opinion, delivered in October 1976, was unanimous: Engineering needed to be a separate school. “The school should be small, of high quality, and professionally oriented,” the committee advised.
With funding tight, the University was unwilling to divert the funds needed to underwrite the school. So the university trustees established an ad hoc committee to explore funding options and organization. Willard Hackerman ’38, a trustee and president of the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, chaired the committee. Also instrumental in re-formation of the School were F. Pierce Linaweaver ’55, PhD ’65; Herschel L. Seder ’39 (A&S); and Mark Rubenstein ’62, MS ’65.
“Johns Hopkins had to be well-balanced,” remembers Rubenstein, who went on to shepherd the School’s first strategic plan. “We were so strong in medicine, and so deep in applied physics, we knew we needed a top-flight engineering school too.”
Hackerman helped secure a gift from the estate of George William Carlyle Whiting, co-founder of Whiting-Turner, which made the new school a reality. The board voted approval of its reestablishment in spring 1978.
The G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering officially opened in fall 1979, becoming the University’s first named division. The Whiting School quickly thrived, buoyed by a surge in national demand for engineers and the support of alumni and friends. While some served on the newly established National Advisory Council, others provided funding for scholarships, professorships, and lecture series.
Opening Career Doors for Working Professionals
Suzanne Jenniches, MS ’79, was a first-year high school biology teacher when she spied a postcard in the back of a teacher’s magazine touting Johns Hopkins’ advanced degree program in environmental engineering.
“I was 23 and had never heard the word ‘engineering’ before,” she recalls. Intrigued, she applied and soon started classes. Over the next nine years, Jenniches drove from her Reisterstown home four nights a week to take undergraduate and master’s courses through the Evening College.
Her 1979 master’s degree was her ticket to a long and successful career with Northrop Grumman, where she rose to vice president and general manager of the Government Systems Division before retiring in 2010. “I worked in industry for 36 years and every day I loved going to work,” Jenniches says. “I credit Johns Hopkins for opening all those doors for me.”
-Jenniches is just one of tens of thousands who have earned their advanced engineering degrees through part-time programs at Hopkins, taking classes at night and on weekends while juggling full-time careers and family responsibilities. While the name of the program has changed many times over the decades, its mission has not. The part-time program that began in 1916 as “Night Courses for Technical Workers” makes it possible for working engineers to advance their careers without interrupting their busy lives.
Today, Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals (EP) offers more than 450 courses in 15 master’s degree and certificate programs—including two programs pioneered by Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory, which has been a central shaper of part-time efforts over the decades—at locations across the greater Baltimore-Washington, DC, area. Through partnerships with industry, some specially tailored advanced degree programs are even offered on-site. In Tucson, Arizona, for example, Raytheon Missile Systems employees can pursue a master’s in systems engineering that is specially designed for the defense contractor. In addition, a growing number of programs and classes are available online.
“The Hopkins name is highly valued in the industrial workplace,” says Jenniches.“I never could have stopped working to pursue a degree. Johns Hopkins changed my life.”