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From the Archives: Stevens Institute of Technology Celebrates 149 Years!

Edwin A. Stevens, founder of Stevens Institute of Technology, (Morton Memorial: A History of the Stevens Institute of Technology, 1905)

Happy Founder’s Day! Every year the Stevens community comes together to celebrate the anniversary of when Stevens Institute of Technology was officially incorporated on February 15, 1870. According to President Farvardin in 2013, this annual celebration is intended to honor our founder’s “spirit of innovation” and their “foresight to see the value in education.” 

The official history of Stevens Institute of Technology dates back to April 15, 1867, when Edwin Augustus Stevens, in his will, bequeathed a block of land adjoining the family estate at Castle Point in Hoboken, as well as $150,000 for the construction of a building, and a $500,000 endowment for an “institution of learning.”

At the time, the Stevens family had firmly cemented their reputation as pioneers in a variety of fields, including steam-powered transportation and railway engineering. So it was only fitting that the institution would carry on this legacy of ingenuity and innovation. The only question was how?

1.) Lithographic print of Stevens campus, 1908 (SCW.010)

Lithographic print of Stevens campus, 1908 (SCW.010)

When Edwin passed away in 1868, the work of carrying out his will was handled by Edwin’s wife, Martha Bayard Stevens, her brother, Samuel Bayard Dod, and William Shippen, a family business partner. Together, they determined that the school would be “devoted to the study of mechanical engineering and to involve a general and not a merely industrial training.” Most importantly, they decided to give the new Institute the title of Technology, “in memory of its munificent founder, Edwin A. Stevens, and his family’s devotion to science and technology.”

On February 15, 1870, an act to incorporate Stevens Institute of Technology was approved by the State of New Jersey, making it the first institution in the United States to offer the degree of Mechanical Engineer.  In the Fall of 1871, Stevens officially opened its doors to a student body that consisted of 21 students (2 juniors, 3 sophomores, and 16 freshmen). Interestingly, all classrooms, offices, and laboratories were housed in the Administrative Building (now Edwin A. Stevens Hall) until the Carnegie Laboratory of Engineering was erected in 1902.

149 years later, the university carries forward the Stevens family’s remarkable legacy of invention, innovation, and inspiration. Looking forward to seeing what next year’s 150th anniversary will bring!