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Engineers here gathered to form the RES

adapted from "A Century of Engineering in Rochester", the centennial anniversary of the RES (1997)


“The Rochester Engineer” (June 1977) On this occasion, the 80th Anniversary of the RES, this issue of the magazine provides insight into the RES’ history, beginning with an overview of the contributions of O. Lawrence Angevine who, for nearly forty years (1924 – 1963) served as its Executive Secretary. This is followed by a synopsis of the crucial events in the history of the Society, beginning with its formation, on March 18, 1897. This includes sections entitled: “The Beginning of the RES”, “A Pleasant Excursion”, “Aid for Quake Victims”, “Concern About Pure Foods”, “Rhapsody in Stone and Steel”, “The Society’s Benefactress”, “Sleeves Up for the War Effort”, “Publication Begun”, “The City Should Do Some Planning”, “Civic Involvement for An Engineer”, “A Serious Civic Problem”, “Blue Cross Group Formed”, “…And Another War”, “There Were Traffic Problems”, “Half a Century Completed”, “Garbage Was Still a Problem”, “One View of Irondequoit Bay”, and “Operation Resource”. Editor’s Note: A link to this file (16 pages) is available here for our readers’ enjoyment.

The Beginning

It was March 18, 1897 when seventeen engineers met for the purpose of establishing an engineering society for Rochester. The meeting was held in the office of Rochester City Engineer Edwin A. Fisher who became the first president of the new organization. Many of those present had been members of the former Section of Engineering of the Rochester Academy of Science.

Pierce-ArrowEdwin A. Fisher, Rochester City Engineer, was one of the founders of the Rochester Engineering Society, and its first president. Photo is circa 1897.

The new organization was named the Rochester Engineering Society and the first base of operation was the Reynolds Library, 150 Spring Street. The library originally was established by Mortimer Reynolds in what is today the Reynolds Arcade but was later located in his home following his death. For many years it was the only library in Rochester.

The new Society set for its objectives: advancing engineering knowledge and practice; and promoting professional and social intercourse between its members. These objectives are valid goals of today's Society. It should be noted that this period preceded the legislation for state licensing of engineers. Therefore the Society of that day was regarded as the only guardian of agreed upon professional codes of ethics.

Growth was rapid for the new organization. At that time there were very few national engineering organizations, and of those that did not exist, most had not gotten around to establishing a chapter or section for Rochester. The Rochester Engineering Society offered what was possibly the only opportunity for engineers to attend instructive and enlightening meetings with their peers.

The Need for Communication

In 1922 the Board of Directors decided to have a monthly publication printed. The first issue (unnamed) was published in November 1922. It is interesting to read the introduction for this issue quoted here:

"This issue of our (as yet nameless) publication is in a way a sort of commencement. The Rochester Engineering Society has at last graduated from the monthly bulletin and has undertaken to serve the Rochester engineers, architects and those with closely allied interests in a more crystallized form. Our 1922-23 officers have set up certain aims for the immediate future and we want this paper to bring to a focus the interest of the fraternity of which we are a part.

"We know too little of each other and of our own societies and what they have done and are trying to accomplish. We want to show how our membership has grown and is growing.

"We want all local engineers, including members of the Rochester Engineering Society and of the eight kindred societies to consider this as their paper for, of and by them. Their criticisms and support are vital to its ultimate success. As our affiliations become closer, and they are bound to do so, the size and scope of the paper should increase to meet greater demands. Then we hope the staff will later include members, not only of the R.E.S., but of all local societies with interrelated activities.

"Engineering is a big word and is greatly misused and misunderstood. Something like 26 varieties are recognized by civil service authorities and the end is yet to come."

"Let us all get together, and by composite self expression, interpret the correct and fullest meaning of our name as far as possible through this medium."

The RES was on its way - that vital ingredient of any successful organization, communication, was now being offered as a service to the profession.

Even without computers or facsimile machines the engineers of that day moved fast. A name was selected, through a contest, and available for the December 1922 issue. The following is quoted from the December issue.

"Real interest was shown in the Prize Name Contest. 100 different names were submitted, and only two in duplicate. Those sent in showed considerable fertility of thought and best of all a willingness to take part in the Society doings. The list was boiled down to the following by officers and Committee Chairmen and the final choice was made by the Board of Governors from the first eight listed. The winning name was sent in by Gloster P. Hevenor. Dignity, not dash guided the selection.

The Rochester Engineer; India Ink; The Pioneer; Engineering Events; The Ace; The Triangle; Rochester Engineering; Rochester Engineering News; The Mace; The Blue Print; Associated Engineering News; India Inklings; The Rochester Technical Journal; The Local Engineer; Field Notes; The Pinnacle; The Engineer's Record; Rochestek; and, Affiliatek."

It may be interesting to note that the new publication started with a circulation of 1,384.

A Year of Significant Change

Accepting an invitation from the University of Rochester, the Society moved its office to the Carnegie Building on January 4, 1924. That was an eventful year for the RES since on April 10, 1924 the first employee was hired. The position of executive secretary (later changed to executive director) was created, and 0. Laurence Angevine P.E., and RES member, was appointed to the post. Originally the position was created for a two-month trial period but Mr. Angevine served until December 31, 1963.

The creation of this position most definitely charted the Society's future course. Services to the growing number of affiliates was becoming an important purpose for the RES and the concept of "shared services" was being developed.

The next move the Society made was in October of 1926 when the office was relocated to facilities in the Sagamore Hotel (later the Sheraton and still later 111 East Avenue).

This was the only move in the Society's history which was made to smaller quarters. The fact that the budget now included a salary for a staff member was undoubtedly the reason for this. The move forced the Society to sell their piano, clock and billiard table. The end of the "club" atmosphere.

The East Avenue location served the Society's needs for close to four decades. Growth continued during that period in all aspects - membership, affiliates and activities. Application was made in 1933 to incorporate the Society and this was formalized on May 17, 1934. As a non-profit corporation under New York State law the officers could now apply for tax exempt status.

In August 1964 Society offices were moved to the Chamber of Commerce on St. Paul Street. The first location was on the balcony and later, in 1974, to a ground floor office. The Society now had an executive director and a secretary. Soon there would be ten affiliated societies and the prospect for additional growth in that area looked

promising. Technology gained from the military build-up of World War II and later the cold war plus the spin-off from the research being completed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was setting the stage for the development of many new disciplines in engineering and science. New societies were forming and some older ones were dividing themselves in order to cope with the deluge of new and exciting technologies.

Expansion of Services Makes Its Demand

Services to the affiliates continued to grow with the scope of services expanding. The RES was now handling clerical tasks for many of the affiliates who were billed for this on a cost basis. This growth in the scope of services activities pointed out the need for the RES to own its own equipment. Much of the equipment being used belonged to the Chamber of Commerce and made available to the RES as part of the lease agreement. Since the RES could not obtain additional space to accommodate the new equipment it was decided that the office should be moved to larger quarters.

In July 1980 the office was moved to the Builders Exchange at 65 College Avenue. This location provided adequate space for expanding the office equipment and also provided a conference room which the RES Board of Directors could use for their meetings. Unfortunately, the room was not available for use by the affiliates.

The scope of services for affiliates were now greatly expanded. The member groups were now able to be listed in the telephone directory under their name, RES number. RES staff members answered their calls and referred the party to the proper officer. They could also use the RES office for delivery of their mail. The RES would now take reservations for their monthly meetings. Storage facilities for their historical records became available to them. Separate costs for these options were established so that only the groups availing themselves of the services paid, holding the dues down for the others.

Civic Endeavor Also Grew

The Rochester Engineering Society , after eighty years of continuing progress, had definitely established its role not only in the Rochester area engineering profession, but in the community in general.

The Society had established a Skills Bank of volunteers from both the RES and the affiliated societies' members. Many impressive studies were completed by these volunteers in an effort to solve problems and improve the quality of life in the community.

The RES, as the "Umbrella" group provided the forum for the members of diverse engineering disciplines to "get together" to alleviate not only their own problems but also those of concern of government and the public sector. The co¬ordination effort of the Society helped to blend the expertise and special talents of academia, industry and government.

The Latest Expansion of Equipment and Service

In June of 1985 the Society acquired a Macintosh computer with an Apple Laser printer. This equipment acquisition again expanded the scope of services. The Society could now maintain mailing lists and provide labels to the affiliates. The Society was now able to set the pages in-house for The Rochester Engineer saving approximately five hundred dollars per month in the composing of the monthly publication.

If a significant savings could be made by having the staff do the composing of the Rochester Engineer then why not take the next logical step and purchase printing equipment? With the employment of part-time personnel The Rochester Engineer could be composed and printed in-house at a significant savings in both money and time. In order to implement this program the Society would require much larger quarters. After determining that the increase in rent for such a move would be more than offset by the savings on printing of The Rochester Engineer, the Board made the decision to seek larger quarters.

The decision to move, purchase equipment, and set up a printing operation was greatly influenced by the fact that the Society also would be able to offer printing of newsletters, brochures and stationery to the affiliates. A truly valuable new service.

In February 1986 the Society moved to 170 Mt. Rd. Blvd. The equipment, an offset press, collator, paper cutter, folder and a booklet maker were purchased. The June 1986 issue was the first to be composed and printed in-house by the RES staff. Later, to again realize a savings in both time and money the Society purchased a camera, dark room equipment and a platemaker. Now the complete operation was in-house.

The success of this program has been phenomenal. Five affiliated societies have their newsletters composed, printed and mailed by the RES staff. Volunteers from those societies who previously had to spend many hours each week working with printers were now free to accomplish tasks more in line with the goals and purposes of their society.

The staff also prints letterheads, envelopes and seminar brochures for any affiliated group requesting the service. Of course cost for those services are also at the RES actual expenses which provides a significant savings for the affiliated group.

The Mini-Engineer Center

The Society's move to Mt. Read Blvd. allowed the RES to have a large board room which was fully utilized by the affiliate groups. That location had been referred to as the Rochester Mini-Engineering Center.

The most recent move to 1806 Lyell Avenue provided the RES with a facility close to fulfilling the long sought after goal of an Engineers' Center for the Rochester area. A 1,000 square foot meeting room is adequate for many meetings and seminars and the expanded facility permitted the necessary upgrading of printing and computer equipment.

Printing, the latest service offered to the affiliates is perhaps the one which best illustrates "Shared Service." Shared Service is a concept that offers to the many diverse groups the opportunity to share in the use of equipment and staff personnel. Very few, if any, could afford either the equipment or staff on their own. Collectively however, it is possible for them to have the advantages of a professional staff equipped with the proper tools to serve the needs of all. All benefit from such an arrangement. As mentioned above, volunteers from each participating group are freed from many clerical tasks in their operation and are then available for more important progressive roles.

Also, since there is a savings within several of their most costly budget items more funds are made available for use in carrying out the stated purposes of their organization. The RES itself benefits in that when staff personnel are completing tasks for an affiliate member they are, in a sense, off of the RES payroll.

That last paragraph is an excellent description of the proposed Engineers' Center for Rochester. It is the "Shared Service" concept on a grand scale.

Engineers' Center For Rochester - Not A New Concept

This article has traced the history of the progress of the Rochester Engineering Society since its first day, March 18, 1897. During the past 99 years there has been frequent mention of construction of an Engineers' Center or Club in Rochester. Just as the founders and early officers of the Society set the stage for the society to develop into an "umbrella" type organization, they also saw an Engineers' Center in the future. To them, it was just a logical development after the organization realized its growth potential. The history of the Society offers convincing evidence that an Engineers' Center is not a new concept.

Historically, the closest the Society came to creating an Engineers' Center was in 1967. A barn, known as Krenzer Barn, on East River Road at the western edge of the Rochester Institute of Technology campus was scheduled for demolition. Dr. Mark Ellingson, president of RIT, who was aware of the society interest in acquiring an Engineers' Center offered to lease the structure to RES.

The RES set up a committee, chaired by Alexander Beebee Jr., P.E. to study the offer. After meeting with Dr. Ellingson it was decided to engage an architect to develop a rendering showing how the structure could be utilized for such a purpose.

The architects renderings and plan were first shown at the Engineers' Joint Dinner on February 22, 1967. Alexander Beebee Jr. explained the concept to those in attendance. It was estimated that the development costs would be $300,000.

On March 1, 1967, RES President Evan Edwards P.E. appointed Ernest E. Mohr P.E. as the project manager for the Engineers' Center. Mr. Mohr, who at that time was the assistant manager of the engineering, construction, maintenance, and utilities organization at Kodak Park, studied the proposal and the records indicate that he devoted considerable time to the charge. It is interesting to review Mr. Mohr's reports which were published in The Rochester Engineer during 1967 and 1968. Of particular interest were his comments of what goals the Society should accomplish in organizational structure and purpose as perhaps first steps toward the development of a center. Many of those goals have been accomplished and today's Society may have filled the needs suggested in 1967-68. Though Mr. Mohr's comments may appear today to have been prophetic they were actually made at the time by a man with a great deal of experience and a high degree of business and professional acumen. It is an example of the type of leadership which drove the Society on from those early days in 1897 to today's organization.

Conclusion: A Bold Look To The Future

Reviewing the Society's history from the small room in the Reynolds Library at the start of the twentieth century, to today's organization which boldly looks to the twenty-first century, one is certain of one fact; there someday will be an Engineers' Center for the Rochester area. All of the progress recorded over the past century cannot just stop or mark time.

Growth must continue. As new technology continues to develop so does the need for more professionals. Continuing the "Shared Services" concept, the most important aspect in the growth of the RES, demands a central location for operation, one which would be the focal point of all the diverse disciplines within the profession.


Rochester Museum & Science Center

Administrative Director

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