In 1872, Auburn got a new name. And a new purpose. The world hasn’t been the same since.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of Auburn’s reorganization under the Morrill Act from East Alabama Male College into the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama, which established the Colleges of Agriculture and Engineering.
Late Friday afternoon, in the shadow of the building where Auburn’s cornerstone instructional programs were born, the year-long celebration began.
More than 450 College of Agriculture and Samuel Ginn College of Engineering alumni donors gathered on Samford Lawn to mark the historic occasion at an event featuring student and alumni speakers, as well as addresses from college and university administrators including former Dean of Engineering and current Auburn University President Christopher B. Roberts.
“When choosing a location for this milestone event, we decided this was the perfect place to celebrate the two colleges that have meant so much to this university, our state and even our nation,” Roberts told attendees. “Under the Morrill Act in 1872, Auburn University was reorganized as the South’s first land-grant institution. While we say that term a lot, it is an important one, and its purpose speaks to the mission of everything we do.”
Auburn’s colleges of agriculture and engineering have done a lot.
“If we look back 150 years to this very place where we are standing, we would see a completely different landscape,” Interim Dean of Engineering Steve Taylor said. “The vast contrast in the standard of living between 1872 and today is a testament to the combined power of agriculture and engineering. 150 years ago, Alabama was just beginning to industrialize, but our ability to produce and distribute food and fiber for this industrial growth was not ready to meet the demands of a growing state. Auburn University played a monumental role in the way our region developed, and many of the technologies developed through the Colleges of Agriculture and Engineering changed the landscape of the nation — literally.”
“As we like to say in the College of Agriculture, ‘this is the work that makes the world work,'” said Paul Patterson, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. “I know the same can be said for Engineering. For the past 150 years, and even now, the Colleges of Agriculture and Engineering have not worked in silos. We have worked together on infrastructure, environmental sustainability, food, water, energy and the natural resources that keep the world moving. Our two colleges work in tandem to ensure that Auburn University is a source of knowledge and action for our communities, region and state.”
Part of those tandem efforts includes the Department of Biosystems Engineering, which is jointly administered by both colleges; Lindsay Tucker, a 2009 biosystems engineering graduate, was among the event’s alumni speakers.
“I’ve seen first-hand the impact… biosystems engineering degrees have in the workforce,” said Tucker, a project manager for an engineering and environmental services firm. “My company recruits these degrees because we know these individuals are going to be well-rounded problem solvers, prepared to work in water systems and handle the field’s unique challenges.”
Though the theme of Friday’s festivities celebrated past accomplishments, much of the night focused on both colleges’ present and future research thrusts, from combatting biological threats to the state’s farms, to combating cyber threats to the nation’s infrastructure.
The College of Agriculture remains an international leader in animal nutrition and welfare. In addition to creating stronger plant varieties and animal breeds, agricultural faculty are developing new technologies and practices to make foods safer, enhancing strategies to advance environmental conservation on farms and throughout communities, and providing farmers with innovations that will secure higher yields with fewer resources. The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, meanwhile, continues to deliver technologies for safer and more efficient transportation systems, develop commercial space applications, defend the nation against foreign and domestic threats, bolster American cybersecurity and speed the growth of American industrial and manufacturing sectors. The college has also taken the lead in advancing the pulp and paper and chemical refining industries; provided affordable and reliable electrical power; revolutionized wireless communications; and provided safe and abundant drinking water and effective sanitation systems.
“We have a great vision for the next 150 years for Auburn University,” Roberts said in his closing remarks. “The colleges of agriculture and engineering are fundamental to that vision. As history has shown us, Auburn Agriculture and Engineering graduates are change-makers. And our future is only brighter.”
By JEREMY HENDERSON, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering