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Celebrating Drexel's Diamond Jubilee

April 11, 2008

by Robin Elliot 

In 1966, Drexel celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary with its Diamond Jubilee. The theme was 'The Responsible Man in a Free Society of Exploding Technology', which amply illustrated Drexel's history and the current goals of that time period.

The president of Drexel was William Walsh Hagerty, who was the eighth president of Drexel, serving from 1963 to 1984. He was educated as an engineer at the universities of Minnesota and Michigan. Prior to his presidency of Drexel he was the dean of the college of engineering at the University of Texas. The brochure produced at the time of the anniversary demonstrates the tremendous growth of the school and the specific time period in which it was produced.

The theme illustrates how conscious Drexel was of events in the world, such as the atomic bomb and the environmental hazards of the war in Vietnam, both of which were directly connected to scientific research.  

The brochure highlighted several important aspects of Drexel's past and present. The main focus was to show how the school had gone from a newly founded, relatively small school with minimal resources of staff and facilities to become a major part of the educational landscape of Philadelphia. The photographs of Drexel students from the early years and from the 1960's ably demonstrated the huge societal and academic changes which had affected Drexel.

While the computer would be barely recognizable today with laptops and PDA's, in 1966 computers were generally much larger and were used by the government and companies or academic institutions, not individuals. This is demonstrated by a photograph of a professor showing students how to use a computer.  The College of Engineering and Science was an extremely important part of the academic focus of Drexel in 1966.

In Drexel's early years the electrical engineering program had grown from a single class which was given by only one professor. By 1966 it was providing students with baccalaureate, master's and doctoral degrees in a variety of engineering fields. There was also a substantial research budget for the College of Engineering and Science.

The College of Home Economics in 1966 had also changed from its previous incarnations at Drexel. In the early 1890's when Drexel opened it had a Department of Domestic Economy and a Technical Department for the education of women. By 1945 this had become the College of Home Economics, which was offering a diverse program for female students. In 1966 there were three departments in the College of Home Economics-Nutrition and Food, Design, and Human Behavior and Development. Incidentally the College of Home Economics became the Nesbitt College of Design, Nutrition, Human Behavior, and Home Economics in 1974.

This was the culmination of the previous decade's changes to the Home Economics curriculum. The anniversary was celebrated with a Founder's Day Convocation held on December 6, 1966 at The Academy of Music in Philadelphia. The Honorable Arthur J. Goldberg, Ambassador to the United Nations, gave the chief address of the day. He was given an honorary degree from Drexel for his work as the Secretary of Labor under President John F. Kennedy, as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1962, and in 1965 was made an Ambassador. He spoke before the United Nations on a proposal to end the Vietnam War which was not successful but that further enhanced his eligibility for the honorary degree from Drexel.

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