A Memory from Donlan Jones ’52,  The Birth of the Graduate Program

1959 Graduate Engineering Course Announcement
An annotated course announcement for
Fall, 1959.

Donlan Jones'52, former SCU Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and current head of the Accelerated Math Program at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic School in Lake Oswego, Oregon, was a key factor in bringing graduate engineering education to Santa Clara University. Having graduated from SCU in 1952 with his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, Jones worked at Hughes Aircraft Co. as a Hughes MS Fellow at UCLA. After earning his master's degree in engineering in 1954, he worked two more years at Hughes in digital computer research before deciding to "change the world" by becoming a college instructor. In 1956 Santa Clara reached out to him and offered Jones the position of Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, which he accepted. Following is his account of the birth of the graduate engineering program at Santa Clara University:

"It became obvious to me shortly after I started at Santa Clara that offering graduate courses was a logical step for the College of Engineering to take because of the growth of industry in the Santa Clara Valley. This topic was discussed off and on over the next couple of years. Sometimes people blew hot and sometimes cold. Sometime in either late '58 or early '59, a group of engineering faculty (I was not part of it) went up to Stanford University to discuss with Joe Pettit, then Dean of Engineering, the pros and cons of offering MS degrees in engineering at SCU. For whatever reason, the group returned with a very negative report. When I heard the report from the group, I was astounded, to put it mildly. I just could not see why it would not be a great thing for Santa Clara to offer MS Degrees in engineering.

"As young people are wont to do, I continually sounded off and complained. Finally, my department chairman, Henry Nettesheim, suggested that I see Dean Parden and tell him how I felt. After Dean Parden heard me out, he suggested that I come up with a proposal.

"I decided to approach various department chairmen and ask them to have their departments offer one graduate course beginning in the fall of 1959. Pefley in mechanical engineering, Tapay in civil engineering, Sussman in math, Drahmann in physics all agreed, and Nettesheim determined that the three of us in electrical engineering--himself, Peterson, and I--would each teach one graduate course. This would be in addition to what was called for in our contracts with the University. I taught a course in Digital Computer Logic Design. I returned to Parden with this proposal, plus a recommendation that we print a number of posters announcing the courses and place them in the various industries and businesses in the Santa Clara Valley. He agreed and supported the program. It was Dean Parden's idea to offer any graduate courses early in the morning.

"We placed the posters and the 'Early Bird' MS program was launched in the fall of 1959. In the first two years, there was almost a doubling each term of the number of students enrolled compared to the previous term, and the graduate program helped keep the undergraduate program alive in the early 1970s when there was a sharp drop-off in the number of undergraduate students in engineering."