In 1986, Dr. Edward Stevens, then president of George Fox University, began researching what it would take for the University to produce engineers. Driven by industry’s increasing need for engineers, Dr. Stevens hired Dr. Robert Harder to start a 3–2 program in engineering at George Fox University. The 3–2 program was developed in cooperation with the University of Portland, which hoped to recruit more students to its engineering program.
In 1993, the University completed construction of the Edwards-Holman Science Center. This provided significantly more suitable space for all of the University’s science-related programs. The construction also brought the Department of Biology and Chemistry together with the Department of Math, Computer Science and Engineering, creating an important connection between the programs.
This new space and the growth of the program made it possible to add a new faculty member. Dr. John Natzke joined the George Fox faculty in 1995 and took over the teaching of electrical engineering courses and a portion of the physics courses, as well. This allowed Dr. Harder and Dr. Natzke to develop four new courses to add to the program, providing more options for students.
The program continued to grow in size and strength. Other institutions began to comment on how well-prepared George Fox students were when they moved elsewhere to complete their final two years of undergraduate engineering education. This was because George Fox’s program had begun to attract dedicated students, had a strong design focus and was taught by degreed engineers.
The new facility and more balanced teaching loads allowed Dr. Harder and Dr. Natzke to begin to dream about developing a four-year Bachelor of Science in Engineering program. There were several motivating factors:
In 1997, the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) announced new guidelines for accrediting schools of engineering. These guidelines included increased emphasis on the liberal arts and design, making engineering one of the first scientific disciplines to react to industry’s call for well-rounded graduates — trained in the liberal arts, as well as the sciences. Some top engineering schools resisted the new guidelines. However, the new standards largely mirrored the liberal arts philosophy of George Fox and its engineering faculty. While many engineering schools have been hesitant to add more liberal arts courses into their curricula at the expense of applied mathematics and engineering electives, at George Fox the liberal arts are central to its mission. Thus, Dr. Harder and Dr. Natzke believed the timing was right to begin preparing a proposal for a new Bachelor of Science degree program at George Fox University.
In 1998, Dr. H. David Brandt, a physicist by academic training, became president of George Fox University. Having experience in private industry and in engineering programs at two other liberal arts institutions, Dr. Brandt was impressed by the faculty and curriculum in the George Fox program.
In 1999, the board of trustees, the president’s cabinet and the entire faculty approved the proposal for a new, four-year Bachelor of Science in Engineering Program. At that same time, the University was about to launch the public phase of a $22 million capital campaign that included $750,000 for the renovation of Wood-Mar Hall. The community agreed to use this space for the new engineering program because it would provide suitable laboratory space and would maintain the program’s physical connection to the rest of the science-related programs (Wood-Mar Hall is connected to the Edwards-Holman Science Center).
In 2000, the new Bachelor of Science in Engineering program enrolled its first freshman class. This class graduated in May of 2004 and the George Fox University engineering program received ABET accreditation the following year.