Mechanical Engineering Department Celebrates its Centennial

For 100 years, the Department of Mechanical Engineering has been at the forefront of design, innovation, education and research.

For 100 years, the Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin has been at the forefront of design, innovation, education and research.

The department welcomed its next century in September, with a series of events and activities to commemorate the occasion and launch a five-year capital campaign.

The weekend-long ME Centennial celebration kicked off on Sept. 19 with a lecture by alumnus Robert Ambrose, the first in a series of Chevron Distinguished Lectures. On Sept. 20, nearly 200 mechanical engineering faculty, students, alumni and friends gathered for a reception, followed the next day by the department’s annual tailgate party.

me centennial tower

With the UT Tower lit with “100” in the department’s honor, reception attendees heard from alumni and faculty members who reminisced and presented the history of mechanical engineering at UT Austin, beginning with chair Jayathi Murthy, who is the first female chair of the mechanical engineering department.

Associate professor Michael Webber followed, giving the “Then & Now” look at ME in images from the last 100 years. He recalled moments and memories such as ME legend Byron Short’s “long” slide rule instruction, the Operation Gopher students who dug out the basement of Taylor Hall to create the Taylor T-Room and the very dated recruitment campaign for female engineers from the 1950s.

The reception continued with the presentation of the 2013 Mechanical Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni: Sara Brand, Outstanding Young Engineer; Greg DeKunder and Robert Ambrose, Distinguished Graduates; Mike McShane, Hall of Fame Engineer; and Kenneth Ball, Denise Elston and John Howell, Honorary Mechanical Engineers.

At the end of the night, attendees flocked to the UT Tower for photo opportunities with the lit “100.”

“I was at the Tower after the event, and a sense of love and affection for the department was palpable,” Murthy said. “Many people were visibly moved, and it brought home to me how much the department and UT mean to our friends and alumni.”

One key component to the department’s centennial celebration is the launching of the ME Centennial Campaign, a five-year, $5 million effort to secure funds that will enhance the undergraduate experience and help transform the department into a top-five-ranked program in the United States.

The ME Centennial Campaign’s main initiatives are:

  • 35-in-5 Women in Mechanical Engineering: The program’s goal is to increase the percentage of women in ME to 35 percent within five years. This will be accomplished through new and increased scholarship opportunities, increased retention and career mentorship options and the development of a summer internship program that partners undergraduate women with ME faculty and graduate students.
  • Project Centered Engineering Education (PROCEED): Launched in 2001, PROCEED closely integrates practical problem-solving with classroom experience, increasing opportunities for hands-on learning and allowing students to work on real-world challenges.
  • Undergraduate Research and Lab and Facilities Enhancements: Studies have shown a high correlation between student success and time spent in a research lab. And state-of-the-art facilities and equipment are essential for teaching. Upgrades to labs, enhancements to equipment and modernization of infrastructure will be essential in the years to come.

For more information, visit

ME Then & Now

webber then now

View associate professor Michael Webber's ME Then & Now presentation (downloadable PDF).

Also view a timeline showing milestones in Mechanical Engineering at UT Austin (downloadable PDF).