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Memoirs of the First Forty Years, by Dan H. Pletta

Continued Growth and Objectives

The appendices and tables listed so far have indicated a most rewarding growth. Although enrollment may have reached a quantifiable optimum, other a data suggest a continuing enhancement in quality. The achievements of the hundreds of graduates, the first of whom are now reaching retirement years, the continued scheduling of yearly conferences, and the growth in scholarly achievement of the faculty had earned the department a justifiable reputation for excellence.

Technically, the departmental educational efforts had been exceptional. Yet, they shared a weakness all other collegiate programs have; i.e., none offer any instruction for their graduates in societal leadership. All universities acknowledge their responsibility to 1) transmit existing knowledge, 2) to search for new knowledge, and 3) to provide an education broad enough to allow graduates to understand the cultural heritage of civilization. What they all fail to do is to motivate those graduates who understand science and engineering best to assume leadership positions in our ever increasing technological civilization. Such graduates will have to become much more actively involved in guiding technology by helping to determine long-term societal goals in the future than they have so far if freedom is to endure. Universities should, therefore, add a fourth obligation -- to educate leaders for civilian life who can preserve the best of our cultural heritage while accommodating the technological changes yet to come.

Several sections of these memoirs have described the sustained objectives of the department and accomplishments of the young staff who laid the foundation for the reputation it earned up to 1972. That departmental reputation continued to expand enough thereafter, as these staff members became recognized authorities, to attract many more prestigious faculty members under its post 1972 leadership.

The departments standing might be compared to "a mighty oak that from a small acorn grew" because everyone helped to nurture it enthusiastically.


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