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Parden and the Grad Program

Dean Robert Parden Introduces Graduate Program to Address Silicon Valley’s Need

The technology boom taking place in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s brought about drastic changes to Santa Clara's surroundings. Once known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight, where orchards of fruit trees blossomed each spring, our neighborhood was becoming Silicon Valley, where high-tech industry was born and thrives, calling for a new crop of innovative, proficient engineers.

Responding to this need, then-dean of engineering Robert Parden launched a graduate program in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering at Santa Clara in 1959. Beginning with an enrollment of 50 full-time engineers from local industry, the new “Early Bird” program featured classes held 7-9 a.m. Monday through Friday—a schedule that was perfect for the working professional. Though other universities and colleges offered graduate programs, Santa Clara’s was the first to cater to those who were seeking a part-time master’s program to update their skill set and put them at the cutting-edge of technology.

By the end of the second year of the program, enrollment had more than tripled as forward-thinking companies recognized the benefits of education for their employees and supported them with time off and tuition assistance. Another key component of success was the fact that the School of Engineering drew not only students but also adjunct faculty members from our high-tech neighbors—people like Intel’s CEO Andy Grove and ESL’s President William Perry, who went on to serve as the United States' Secretary of Defense under President Bill Clinton.

Not just for early birds anymore, today’s graduate engineering program includes a broad offering of certificate, degree, and non-degree programs featuring morning, evening and weekend classes for full-time and part-time students from around the world. As we mark the School of Engineering’s 100th anniversary, we also celebrate more than half a century of engineering excellence in graduate education at Santa Clara.

Parden's "Early Bird" program was a huge success.