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RPI Celebrates 175th Anniversary

Posted in Announcements

Celebrating History of RPI – 175 years



Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) celebrated its 175th anniversary on October 14, exactly 175 years to the day as of 1835, when scientist and educator Amos Eaton posted a notice informing faculty and students at the Rensselaer Institute that he intended to award a new degree: civil engineering. It was the first civil engineering degree awarded in the Western Hemisphere. During the two-day festivity, attendees were given the opportunity to review the world-changing innovations of the Institute’s graduates and faculty and anticipate the challenges that lie ahead for civil engineering students.

Many notable guests and speakers presented lectures on contributions that RPI has had on the world of civil engineering and recognized the achievements in civil engineering. “From Washington Roebling, Class of 1857, engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, to George Ferris, Class of 1881, inventor of the Ferris wheel, to our current students, Rensselaer has made an immeasurable impact on the history of humanity," said Tarek Abdoun, Class of 1997, professor and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies for the School of Engineering at Rensselaer and PI of NEES@RPI.

Dr. G. Wayne Clough, 12th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and President Emeritus of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson gave a colloquy on “The Civil Engineering Revival: Challenges, Grand Challenges, and Champions.” Other guests included Kathy Caldwell, ASCE President-Elect, who presented RPI with a plaque that designated it as National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) for launching the first civil engineering degree program in the United States.

Visitors and guests enjoyed tours of campus and a tour of the NEES@RPI state-of-the-art centrifuge laboratory which featured the 150-g ton centrifuge. Lab personnel described the importance of research of physical model simulation of soil and soil-structure systems subjected to in-flight earthquake shaking through the use of this equipment.

RPI has achieved an extraordinary success and achievement in the field of civil engineering in the last two centuries and a promise of even brighter future and success still lies ahead. "The Rensselaer School" was established in Troy in 1824 by Stephen Van Rensselaer, as he stated "for the purpose of instructing persons ... in the application of science to the common purposes of life." In 1833 the school became "the Rensselaer Institute", and in 1861 "Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute."