Then & Now: Civil Engineering Department

By Bob Ullrich ’70

The Civil Engineering Department, as we knew it in the late 1960s, has changed immensely. First, our class in 1970 was the last class that graduated exclusively on the quarter system. In the summer of 1970, the curriculum was changed from a five-year Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree program to a five-year Master of Engineering degree program, and the semester system was adopted. Other changes have occurred over the years including, not only curriculum changes, but changes in personnel, facilities, and student population.

Changes in personnel
From 1965-1970, the faculty in Civil Engineering was: Roscoe McIntosh (retired 1968), Jack Heer (deceased 1980), Russell Snowden (retired 1984), Mike Cassaro (retired 2000), Mario Paz (retired 2004), and Joe Hagerty (retired 2010). Other faculty members who taught during our student days were: Ergin Citipitioglu, George Calvert, Terry McGee, and Steve Thrasher. Of those who retired from Speed, Mike Cassaro and Joe Hagerty are still living.

Since our time at Speed, there have been a number of Speed alumni who served on the Civil Engineering faculty: Jack Heer ’43 (1948-1980), Joe Hagerty ’65 (1970-2010), Terry Weigel ’68 (1977-2008), Bob Ullrich ’70 (1975-2013), Lou Cohn ’71 (1985-2013), J. P. Mohsen ’79 (1983-present), and Mark French ’87 (1987-present).

Curriculum changes
Since the implementation of the Master of Engineering program in 1970, the focus of the Civil Engineering curriculum has shifted from being heavily oriented toward structural engineering, as it was during our student days, to being a more broadly-based civil engineering program including environmental engineering. Thus, the name of the department today is Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), as it is in most civil engineering programs nationally.

The present program allows students to focus in one or more of four CEE focus areas: geotechnical engineering, structural engineering, transportation engineering, and water resources engineering. It is possible for a CEE student to earn a Certificate in Environmental Engineering with a certain number of credits in that area.

Present CEE faculty
Subject Area Personnel
Young-Hoon Kim
Mark McGinley
J. P. Mohsen
Zhihui Sun

Water Resources Nageshwar Bhaskar
Mike Croasdaile
Mark French
Art Parola
Geotechnical Omid Ghasemi-Fare
Tom Rockaway
Transportation Robert Kluger
Zhixia Li

CEE chairpersons from the inception of Speed School in 1925 to the present
Chair Term
Wylie Wendt 1925-1954
Roscoe McIntosh (1954-1968 1954-1968
Jack Heer 1968-1978
Edmond Miller 1978-1981
Mario Paz 1981-1983
Gene Miller 1983-1985)
Lou Cohn 1985-2006
J. P. Mohsen (2006-2017
Zhihui Sun 2017-present
Gene Miller joined the CEE faculty in 1970 and retired in 1988. Edmond Miller joined the CEE faculty in 1978 but left in 1981 to organize a CEE department at UAB.

Changes in facilities
Since the class of 1970 graduated, there have been a number of changes to the facilities in the CEE Department. The amount of space available to the department (first floor and basement of W. S. Speed Hall) has not changed, but the arrangement of it has undergone significant changes:

First, the departmental office complex was moved in 1980 from Rooms 101-103-105, along the west side of the hall in W. S. Speed Hall, to Room 100 at the north end of the building. Room 100, formerly a large classroom that occupied the entire width of the building along Eastern Parkway, was subdivided into faculty offices, a chairperson’s office, a conference room, and a central area for staff.

Today, rooms along the west side of the first floor of W. S. Speed Hall, including Rooms 101, 103, and 105, are used as faculty offices, while rooms on the east side are classrooms.

The area to the south of the double doors on the first floor, leading into the testing area of the building, has changed: First, in the early 1980s, the structural testing machines were renovated. Those on the first floor were sold, and those in the basement were scrapped or renovated. The only testing machine remaining from our days is the 400-kip machine, of which the frame was kept and the control console was replaced. All other machines were replaced by a 200-kip machine and a 60-kip machine. Also, a small torsion-testing machine was purchased. (Side note: The screw-driven testing machines of our days were World War I surplus.)

The first floor area south of the double doors was repurposed as a computer laboratory.

In the basement area of W. S. Speed Hall, Room 001 (northwest corner), which was the Digital Computing Laboratory prior to 1968, became a classroom, then an office area for water resources personnel.

Along the west side of the basement corridor, Room 003 is an office for the ASCE student chapter. Other areas along the west side are still the same: an equipment storage room, a mechanical room, and a custodial supply room.

The two locker rooms on the east side of the basement corridor were repurposed in the late 1970s. The north locker room was subdivided into three offices. The south locker room (Room 007), together with Room 009 (formerly surveying equipment storage), became a geotechnical testing laboratory.

Changes to the structural testing facilities were mentioned previously, but there have been wholesale modernizations of the testing facilities in other CEE focus areas, including the geotechnical testing laboratory, surveying equipment, concrete and asphalt testing, and the hydraulics laboratory.

In our days as students, the hydraulics laboratory was overlooked by a first floor balcony, which at one time served as a desk area for graduate students. That area was floored over in 1985 to create more office space for faculty and graduate students.

Student population
The CE class of 1967 had eight students, 1968 had six students, 1969 had twelve students, and our class (1970) had nineteen students. When U of L joined the state system of higher education in the early 1970s, the enrollment of the University jumped from 8,000 to 22,000, and the enrollment of Speed School more than doubled.

It is not uncommon today for CEE classes to have forty to fifty students. As opposed to the late 1960s, when students came from Louisville or the Northeast, today’s students come mostly from Kentucky, and most of them live in on-campus housing. About half of CEE students leave school to take permanent employment after obtaining a bachelors degree. The others stay to obtain a masters degree.

Whereas, in the late 1960s, there were very few graduate students in CE, today, with a Ph.D. program in place, there is a small but stable (about twenty) group of graduate students working toward advanced degrees. Like most American engineering graduate programs, these graduate students come mostly from countries other than the United States.

Today, the enrollment in Speed is over 2,200, compared to just 600 when we were students. So, many things have changed since our student days in 1970, but many things remain the same: Our graduates are still fiercely proud of their Speed degrees and still supportive of their Alma Mater.