History | NC State ISE


The following departmental history was written and presented by Clarence Smith, ISE assistant department head, at the department’s 75th Anniversary Celebration held November 3, 2006. This history is based on previous works prepared by former department heads Robert Carson and Cliff Anderson, as well as research conducted in the University Archives of the DH Hill Library. The latest information was added by ISE Communications with assistance from Paul Cohen and Julie Swann.

The Beginnings

The year was 1930. The Great Depression was in full swing, the planet Pluto was discovered (although today we understand it’s not a real planet), construction began on the Empire State Building in New York City, and the jet engine was patented. It’s also when the curriculum of Industrial Engineering (IE) first appears in the NC State catalog. We were the 16th IE program formed in the United States; Penn State being the first back in 1908. Although four years of the program are listed (a total of 225 quarter hours), there were no graduates and no faculty. At that time, both NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill granted engineering degrees, and NC State had a School of Science and Business which awarded a degree in Industrial Management. However, within just a few years, all engineering programs were transferred to NC State and all business curricula to Chapel Hill.

As a point of reference, the School of Engineering (now the College of Engineering) had been established back in 1923 and Wallace Riddick, the 4th President of this University, following his expressed desire to take on this role, was named Dean of Engineering that year and served as Dean until 1937. He also served as NC State’s first football coach!

The 1931-32 catalog lists Howard Burton Shaw as Professor of Industrial Engineering and Director of the Engineering Experiment Station. The year following, Shaw dropped the Experiment Station title and devoted his energies solely to Industrial Engineering. A graduate of Harvard University with a master’s in electrical engineering, Shaw served on the faculty of the University of Missouri, and then back on the Harvard faculty, immediately prior to coming to NC State.

Wallace C. Riddick | Dean of Engineering 1923 - 1937
Wallace C. Riddick | Dean of Engineering 1923 – 1937

Nine students were listed in the department in 1932-33. Professor Shaw is identified as the only faculty member, and the curriculum in IE included required courses such as “Introduction to Industrial Engineering”, “Engineering Economy”, “Engineering in Industry” and “Public Utilities”, among several. The first BSIE degrees were granted in 1933 to Henry Saunders and Harold Thomason. In 1934 two more BSIE degrees were granted, one of them to Raymond Shafer. Shafer went on to serve as the inaugural department chairman of the Industrial and Management Systems Engineering Department at West Virginia University, serving as chairman of their I.M.S.E. department from 1954 until 1967. It is interesting to note that on October 14, 2006, that department celebrated its 50th anniversary of awarding degrees in Industrial Engineering.

During those pre-World War II years, enrollment continued to be small, and less than 10 degrees were granted each year. The departmental classrooms and offices were in the Civil Engineering Building (actually the backside of 111 Lampe Drive, opposite the Park Shops Building).

In 2020, the NC State Board of Trustees voted to change the name of Daniels Hall due to its namesake’s dark history. The building will now be known as 111 Lampe Drive until further notice.

In April 1940, the department moved to “Rooms 125 to 132, 1911 Dormitory” where it remained until Riddick Engineering Laboratories was completed and the department moved into Riddick in 1950.

In 1938, Frank Groseclose came to NC State as Department Head of Industrial Engineering. He had been on the faculty of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Chapel Hill, and brought with him, as an instructor, David Henderson, who had been one of his students. For the next 4 years, Groseclose, Henderson and Shaw taught all the IE classes until World War II broke out. Upon his discharge from the army, Colonel Groseclose, in 1946, rather than return to NC State, was named the inaugural department head of the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech, serving as head until 1966. Additionally, the Colonel was the first-ever National President of our professional society, the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE).

With Groseclose “on leave”, and Henderson “resigned,” program instruction in Industrial Engineering ceased in 1943 with the sudden death of Professor Shaw. Subsequently, the department was reactivated in 1946-1947 due to the efforts of Professor Ronald Wiggins who served as acting department head. There were no graduates in Industrial Engineering during the five-year period of 1943-1948.

The Post-War Years

Things really got going in Industrial Engineering after the war. Harold Lampe became Dean of Engineering in 1945, and in January 1948, David Henderson returned to the department as head of IE. Professor Henderson was partly supported by an endowment contributed by the family of Judge Walter Clark and named in his behalf; today, Shu-Cherng Fang holds the Clark Professorship. Also new to the IE faculty in 1948 was Robert Llewellyn, who served on our faculty until 1978, the first faculty member to serve us for 30 years. Undergraduate enrollment jumped to 135 that year and the curriculum was accredited for the first time. And, we’re proud to say, the BS in Industrial Engineering degree has maintained continuous accreditation since 1948.

Dean John Lampe operating a steam shovel at the groundbreaking ceremony for Riddick Engineering Laboratories.
Dean John Lampe operating a steam shovel at the groundbreaking ceremony for Riddick Engineering Laboratories

A graduate IE program was initiated in 1947 and the first MSIE degree was granted by the department in June 1948 to C. A. Swerdlove. Also, the BS degree in Furniture Manufacturing & Management was established that year with 228 quarter hours required for graduation (same number as BSIE). The FMM degree program was headed by Sig Johnson, who had just joined the faculty, and it was assisted by Rudy Willard, who joined shortly thereafter and taught furniture production methods well into his eighties.

The foundry, welding, wood and machine shops were in the Mechanical Engineering Department up until 1949 when the administration of all these Park Shops laboratories was transferred to Industrial Engineering. Along with the shops came Ralph Cope and Charles Madison, who jointly taught welding and foundry methods to thousands of State students. Fred Wheeler was also transferred to IE and served as Superintendent of the Shops. Wheeler, who lived just opposite the NC State Bell Tower, after his retirement from the department, served as mayor of Raleigh from 1953-1957.

During those early years, and actually up until this requirement was eliminated in 1971, students in the program were required to work a minimum six-week summer work experience in some industrial engineering capacity. Furthermore, each year for many of those early years the senior class of IE students was taken on an industry field trip. This intensive week-long trip provided tours as far away as Atlanta. Quite an exciting thing for the students to do in those days!

We now move to 1950. Along with 44 BSIE degrees, the first BSFMM degree was awarded that year to Charles Tripp, and the IE and FMM program offices moved into the most modern facility on campus at that time, Riddick Engineering Laboratories.

NC State changed from the quarter to the semester system in 1954. Both BSIE and BSFMM degrees required 152 semester credit hours to graduate-yes, 152. All four-year engineering programs at NC State required 150-152 credits at that time-in 1954 when you told someone you were “in college” at NC State, you were “in college!” A required course in statistics was added to the BSIE program that year. Also, a joint BSIE/BSFMM/MSIE five-year program requiring 201 credit hours was proposed by Professor Johnson-even though it was not approved, this predates our own BSIE/Masters five-year program by about 40 years.

The modern day IE Department really began in the post-war years, really an exciting time for those teaching. World War II veterans dominated the academic scene, and many studied industrial engineering. They were generally all business, wanting to make up for lost time, get a degree and get on with making a career.

Married veterans lived in one of 2 communities-Trailwood (where Nelson Hall now stands) or Vetville (where Lee Dormitory now stands). These communities were unique in that, while on campus, they had their own mayors, their own co-op grocery stores, even their own churches. Many single veterans lived in barracks type housing built on campus. Quonset huts littered the Court of North Carolina. The vets probably told their children, “we walked uphill, both ways, in the snow, to get to class!” At one time in the early 1950s, veterans accounted for 80% of the student population at NC State, compared to the national average of 50%. Our male-female ratio among the student body at that time was 65 to 1.

During all of those “early” years, one major problem was Saturday classes. There was pressure from the administration to balance classes between M-W-F and T-Th-S, and almost continuous talk in the legislature downtown about utilization of facilities. There were overt efforts by the students to not have Saturday classes and more subtle efforts by the faculty to not teach them. The department office stayed open every Saturday during the academic year, from 9am to 1pm. This remained as such until the mid-60s, when Saturday classes were all but non-existent.

Industrial Engineering in Transition

Clifton A. Anderson | ISE Department Head 1957-1973
Clifton A. Anderson | ISE Department Head 1957-1973

The lure of industry and more income became too great for Henderson and, in the summer of 1954, he left to join a management consulting firm, only to return to academe a short time later at Old Dominion University, from where he subsequently retired. Carl Hart, a retired Western Electric executive, served as acting department head during the Fall 1954 semester. In February 1955, Robert Carson (the first-ever Ph.D. in IE from the University of Michigan) came from Clemson University to be the new Industrial Engineering department head. Once on the NCSU campus, one of Bob’s first duties was to create interest amongst faculty and students in the IE national honor society, Alpha Pi Mu. Bob had previously served as the National President of APM. As a result of his efforts, a chapter was established at NC State one year later in 1956.

A well-respected administrator, Carson was subsequently tabbed as the new Associate Dean of Engineering for Undergraduate Programs at NC State by Dean Lampe and relinquished the headship of IE in 1957, after serving only two years.

Clifton Anderson was named Department Head of Industrial Engineering at NC State in 1957 after almost 20 years on the IE faculty at Penn State University. In addition, 1957 saw a major curriculum revision of the BSIE degree where several traditional courses were condensed to allow room for emerging “quantitative methods” courses. That year also saw the first-ever “NC State IE” affiliated person, Col. Frank Groseclose, earn the coveted Fellow status of IIE. A year later, Professor Anderson served as National President of Alpha Pi Mu, and, for the first time, the IIE student chapter from NC State took home the top prize as the Most Outstanding Chapter in the United States.

Graduate Program Innovation

While changes were being made in the undergraduate program, a parallel effort to promote and build the graduate program began. Prior to 1958, no more than half a dozen MSIE degrees had been awarded. The goal in 1958 was to develop a fully involved Masters program, emphasizing the quantitative methods courses that were the new tools of IE. Once this renewed thrust on the Masters program was fully underway, emphasis was then directed toward assembling the resources, particularly faculty, that would enable the department to qualify for, and get approval to offer, the PhD.

The progress of the Masters program in the early 1960’s was greatly accelerated by the cooperation of the IE Department with the General Motors Institute’s (GMI) Bachelor-Master program. We were among the early schools to work with GMI and as a result graduated a number of excellent students who were completely funded and supported by General Motors for the completion of their MSIE degree.

In 1962, Ralph Fadum was named Dean of Engineering, serving in that role until 1978. Also, 1962 saw the initiation of the Cooperative Engineering Education Program (co-op), with IE and FMM students actively involved from the outset.

In the early 1960’s, we had great difficulty in recruiting experienced faculty. Generally our offers were about one faculty rank and $2-3,000 below offers at other schools. The first breakthrough was when Jay Goldman was offered a full Professorship, at an acceptable salary, and came to NC State in 1964. He was joined that year by John Harder who was working as a manufacturing engineer with a local firm and joined us, in part, to keep from moving back to New York. As Dr. Harder said at the time, “I’m just too attached to the community and lovely weather.”

Hiring was accelerated over the next few years as current and recently retired faculty members John Canada, Raul Alvarez, Anco Prak, Ed Clark, Henry Nuttle, Salah Elmaghraby and Dick Bernhard all joined the faculty in the 60s. We must have paid them well!

The preparation of the proposal for “A Program of Study Leading to the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy with a Major in Industrial Engineering” began in the fall of 1965. Much of the work was carried out by Professors Anderson and Goldman. It was approved by the Graduate School Council of the consolidated university in fall 1966 and finally by the Board of Trustees in January 1967. Our case was unique in that the original PhD proposal submitted to the College of Engineering was approved at all levels without change – the first time this was ever accomplished in the history of the NC State Graduate School.

Related Programs

The importance of quantitative methods as a critical component of IE education, during the 1960s, produced one side effect that was never fully anticipated – the development of a non-accredited BS degree in Engineering Operations (EO) within the College of Engineering. This degree program, patterned much after traditional engineering where application and/or practice were considered of prime importance, experienced a startling build-up of enrollment, and for a time over 600 students were enrolled in EO, with up to 200 graduates each year. Since nearly all of the EO students were in the production option (where the elective courses were taught by IE Department faculty), the result was an unusually heavy teaching load in the department.

For example, the “service teaching load” in the department for EO students alone in 1968-69 was over 4,000 student credit hours-the equivalent of having about 250-300 additional students in the department. And of course, none of these students earned either BSIE or BSFMM degrees and thus never appeared in our total degrees awarded. As was noted in several departmental annual reports, (paraphrased) “we do the work and get none of the credit.”

The Industrial Engineering curriculum was the first in Engineering at NC State to require a course in computer programming, when a two-credit hour course in Fortran, CSC 111, was added in 1968. That same year Cliff Anderson was named as the first Henry Foscue Professor; today, Tom Culbreth holds the Foscue Professorship. Also, the James T. Ryan Chair was endowed that year; today, Thom Hodgson holds the Ryan Chair. The first Ph.D. in IE was awarded to Manmohan Wig in 1969, with University Professor Salah Elmaghraby serving as his advisor. One year later in 1970, Dr. Elmaghraby was named the inaugural director of the Operations Research program, a position he held until 1989.

The off-campus efforts of our faculty continued, and the first two MIE degrees were awarded in 1969 to off-campus students in Greensboro, NC, through courses taught one night per week by IE faculty at UNC-Greensboro and Greensboro area industrial sites. A total of 23 MIE degrees were awarded over about a six-year period in this fashion. In 1969, both BSIE and BSFMM degrees required 136 semester credit hours.

The headship of Cliff Anderson ended at the conclusion of the 1972-1973 academic year. Exactly 100 total degrees were awarded that year-59 BSIE, 26 BSFMM, 10 MIE, 4 MSIE and 1 Ph.D. Anderson’s 16 years as Department Head is the longest tenure in our department’s history.

Program Growth and Maturation

The year was 1973. William Smith became Department Head of Industrial Engineering, having previously served on the faculty at Lehigh University. One year later, the Furniture R&D Applications Institute, headed by IE professor Anco Prak, was funded by the National Science Foundation. Three years later the all-time record number of BSFMM degrees was awarded (29). This was the same year our graduate program enrollment hit 50 for the first time. William Smith served as National President of IIE for 1975-1976; one of his last official acts as President was to present the IIE Fellow Award to our own John Canada. The first C.A. Anderson Outstanding IE Faculty Award, established by the undergraduate students in IIE, APM and the Furniture Club was given in 1977 to Jim Tompkins, and this award is still given annually. The FMM degree program enrollment peaked in 1979 at 92 students.

Park Shops | ISE held classes here until 2005
Park Shops | ISE held classes here until 2005

Current faculty members Mahmoud Ayoub, Tom Culbreth, and Clarence Smith all began their NC State careers during the decade of the 70s. The last year of the decade also included the addition of Darrell Rice as Park Shops Lab Manager replacing Haywood Burnette, who had held that position since 1963-wow, only two lab managers over the past 43 years! Now that’s stability!

During Bill Smith’s headship, the department celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1981. We planned for it in 1980, issuing alumni newsletters in March 1981 (covering the first 25 years), and again in May 1981 (covering the second quarter-century). A 50th Anniversary Convocation of industry, academic and student leaders was held in August of 1981 resulting in a strategic plan entitled “IE Department Plan for the 80s.”

The eighties saw tremendous growth in IE enrollments and consequently, numbers of graduates. In 1981, IE undergraduate enrollment topped 300, it ballooned to 470 in 1982 and on to the all-time peak enrollment of 535 in 1983. In 1985 the total number of students receiving the BSIE degree topped 100 for the first time as 122 BSIE degrees were awarded, and in 1989, all degrees granted by the department in one year surpassed 150, an amount not realized before or since.

In the 1980s, the spotlight showed favorably on our students as well. For the first time ever, our undergraduate student chapter of IIE hosted the IIE Region III & IV Student Conference on the NC State campus in 1980 (they repeated that honor in 1989 and yet again in 2004). On average, about 150-200 students from up to 14 universities from Toronto to Puerto Rico attended these conferences. IE senior Kathy Rau earned the first-ever College of Engineering Faculty Senior Scholar Award in 1985, recognizing her as the most outstanding rising senior in engineering. Our student chapter further distinguished itself in 1986 earning IIE’s “Most Outstanding Chapter” award after 6th, 4th, and 2nd place finishes over the previous 3 years. They followed in 1987 with a 3rd place finish in that competition as well.

In the fall of 1983, Thom Hodgson came to NC State, having most recently served on the faculty at the University of Florida. John Canada served as acting head between 1982-1983 after Bill Smith stepped down in 1982. Current faculty added during the decade of the eighties included Yahya Fathi, Shu-Cherng Fang, Ezat Sanii, Rusty King, and Bob Young. As previously mentioned, the five-year period from 1983 through 1988 was unparalleled in terms of enrollment and degree production, and our students enjoyed tremendous success. Also, early on in the first year of his headship, Thom, working with Associate Dean of Engineering Carl Zorowski, initiated the graduate program of the Integrated Manufacturing Systems Engineering Institute (IMSEI). IMSEI remains today as an important component of the ISE departments’ graduate degree effort.

The year was 1990. After serving several years on the faculty at Purdue University, Stephen Roberts was named IE Department Head at NC State. That year our total student enrollment for all degrees was at 421, with 131 total degrees awarded. The Furniture Manufacturing and Management Center, with Tom Culbreth as Director, was established in 1991. In 1993, the BSFMM degree was replaced with the BSIE, Furniture Manufacturing track and Paul Bottoms was awarded the first BSIE, FM degree. Our graduate enrollment topped 100 for the first time ever that year and our BSIE degree requirements were reduced to 122 credit hours.

In 1993, Wilbur Meier joined our faculty on a full-time basis after serving as NC State’s Dean of Engineering for the previous 2 years. One year later, in 1994, in cooperation with the North Carolina Department of Labor, the Ergonomics Center of North Carolina was formed, with Mahmoud Ayoub as Director. New and remodeled manufacturing and ergonomics labs, new classroom technology, new equipment, and new efforts to recruit students, such as Engineering Tailgate displays at football games, all played increasingly important roles in the 1990s. Former ISE Associate Head Gary Mirka, who joined our faculty in 1992, taught the state’s first online, real-time, Internet-based, distance education class to students at the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 1996. Other current faculty who joined our department during the decade of the 90s include Denis Cormier, Mike Kay, Yuan-Shin Lee, Jason Low and Jim Wilson.

Excellence in Industrial Engineering

The end of the decade brought an end to the headship of Stephen Roberts and, in 1999, Jim Wilson became Department Head, the first of our department heads to be “promoted” into the job as he had previously joined our faculty in 1991. With the new century also came several new faculty-Xiuli Chao, Ola Harrysson, Simon Hsiang and Dave Kaber have all joined us over the past six years. Our entire department celebrated the 2001 naming of Thom Hodgson to the National Academy of Engineering, the only NC State ISE faculty member to be so honored. Our department became the first academic department in the world to own an Electron Beam Melting machine when it was purchased in 2003, and in 2005, we moved back to where we started in 1930, 111 Lampe Drive, after 55 years in Riddick. And, yes, that same year we became the first named department in the UNC system.

By the way — our students have reached new heights of accomplishment with this new century. Our undergraduate simulation team, participating in the annual IIE/Rockwell Software Student Simulation Competition, won first place in 2006, after “Final 5” finishes in seven of the past eight years, a record unrivaled by any other school. In the IIE/Pritsker Doctoral Dissertation Award Competition, students from our department have placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd every year since 1997-no other ISE program in the world has come close to this record. While many of our graduates over the years have been NCSU valedictorians, in May 2006, for the first time ever, four students from our department earned Valedictorian recognition.

In addition, 2006 brought a new Dean of Engineering, Louis Martin-Vega, previously Dean of Engineering at the University of South Florida. He not only joined NC State and the College of Engineering but, as an Industrial and Systems Engineering Professor, he joined our faculty as well.

We wrapped up 2006 by celebrating 75 years of excellence at NC State. Building on our heritage of excellence in education, innovation in research, and leadership in service to society, our department prepared for its greatest years of growth yet.

The Gift

In 2005, ISE alumni Ed Fitts donated 10 million dollars to the ISE Department. In honor of his generous donation, our department offered to become the first named department in the UNC system. At first, Fitts refused, insisting there was no need for him to be recognized for his kindness. In the end, however, he decided to allow our department to use his. From that day forward, our department had forever changed into the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Thanks to Fitts’s gift, the department was able to award more scholarships, fellowships, and endowments that supported students and research. Fitts believed in the importance of a global, well-traveled society and in honor of his belief, his funding also went to helping students to study abroad. His gift has affected all aspects of the Department. The size of our graduate program has doubled and our research budget has quintupled.

A New Home

Fitts-Woolard Hall
Fitts-Woolard Hall | Summer 2020

In July 2007, Paul Cohen became the new department head. Under Cohen, came the completion of our department’s return to 111 Lampe Drive, which had started in 2005.

After switching from Riddick and Park Shops to 111 Lampe Drive, there was once again a push for the department to move. This time, the plan was to join other engineering departments on Centennial Campus. In 2008, a committee focused on planning this move had picked an architect to design the new building. In 2009, the department received enough funding from the State of North Carolina to go through with their plan. However, due to the Great Recession, the State had to revoke its funding so that it could go to needs that are more crucial.

This setback has not stopped ISE, however. Thanks to another generous donation by Ed Fitts and his friend, and fellow ISE alumnus, Edgar S. Woolard, Jr., our department has gained enough funding to begin construction of a new building on Centennial Campus, which will be named Fitts-Woolard Hall in honor of the duo.

In 2017, the Department welcomed its first female department head, Julie Swann, from Georgia Tech. Among many of her new projects, Swann has pushed the Department to increase its outreach to potential students, especially women and underrepresented minorities. She has also put emphasis on increasing alumni engagement with the Alumni Mentoring Program.

Which brings us to 2019. Our department has continued to grow in number as well as breadth. Our human-systems research area has branched out into evolving technologies, such as Brain-Computer Interface and virtual and augmented reality. Our advanced manufacturing program has also grown, allowing us to branch out into cyber, nano, and biomedical manufacturing. Our department has not forgotten it’s past, expanding our systems analysis and optimization program to include faculty, research, and coursework related to “Big Data” and the data sciences.

We could not be more excited about the future of our department and the role it will take in educating future generations of industrial and systems engineers.