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The Early Years of the College of Engineering*

McNeese State University was established by the Louisiana Legislature in 1939 as a division of Louisiana State University and was originally called the Lake Charles Junior College.  The school changed its name to John McNeese Junior College to honor John McNeese, a renowned Southwest Louisiana educator and the first superintendent of schools in Imperial Calcasieu Parish.

The 1940-1941 catalog of the John McNeese Junior College included the first engineering course - Mechancial Drawing. The 1943-1944 catalog listed a curriculum in "Pre-Engineering."  In 1944 the pre-engineering curriculum was included in the Department of Mathematics and Science.  The catalog showed pre-engineering curricula in Agricultural, Chemical, Civil, Hydraulic, Electrical, Mechanical, Industrial, Aeronautical, Petroleum, Sanitary Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.  In 1953 the college was reorganized into Divisions.  Pre-engineering, mathematics, and sciences were in the Division of Liberal Arts.  The 1957-1958 catalog stated: "McNeese State College provides a complete terminal curriculum in General Engineering and the first three years of work in the fields of Agricultural, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, and Petroleum Engineering."

In 1963 another reorganization put engineering in the Division of Pure and Applied Sciences, Department of Physical Sciences.  Dr. Thomas S. Leary joined the McNeese faculty in 1964 as a physics teacher and was named to head the new Department of Engineering, which offered a B.S. in Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering.  In fall 1966, engineering and technology were separate departments under the Division of Sciences and Technology.  Both departments moved to the former Chennault Air Force Base on the eastern edge of Lake Charles, about seven miles from the main campus.  Students commuted between campuses on a college owned and operated bus.  Class times were scheduled 30 minutes later on the Chennault Campus to accommodate scheduling of classes on both campuses.

In 1968 the departments of engineering and technology came under the School of Science.  In 1971 a Master of Engineering degree in both Chemical and Electrical Engineering was inaugurated.  Civil and mechanical engineering were combined to form an engineering sciences curriculum.  Dr. O.C. Karkalits joined the McNeese faculty in 1972 and was named dean of the newly created School of Engineering and Technology which Karkalits served as Head of the Engineering Department as well as Dean until 1976.

In 1982, a Department of Chemical and Electrical Engineering and a Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering replaced the single engineering department organization.  Dissatisfaction with two campuses on the part of students resulted in the construction of the ETL (Engineering and Technology Labs) building, which was occupied in 1979.  By 1983 a three-story office and classroom building, located adjacent to the ETL, was completed (Drew Hall).  The program in engineering was accredited by ABET in 1980 and has retained its accreditation since that time.  In 1981, the School of Engineering and Technology became the College of Engineering and Technology.  In the mid-80's the four engineering curricula were combined into a single department.

* Partial excerpt from an article written by Dr. Don Elfert, retired engineering professor