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Spotlight: NJIT Commemorates First-ever Class 125 Years Ago

The New Jersey Institute of Technology that we know today has a rich history with its beginnings developing from the industrial age. Like many of the port cities around the world, the Newark, New Jersey of the late 19th century was a thriving industrial center. Its factories churned out thread, metals, paints and leather goods. In Newark, Thomas Edison set the stage at his Ward Street factory for his later astounding achievements, and Edison rival Edward Weston established the first factory in the United States for commercial production of dynamo electric machines.

On March 24, 1880, the Essex County Assemblyman in the state legislature introduced “An Act to Provide for the Establishment of Schools of Industrial Education.” The Newark Board of Trade sponsored the bill. The Act established three schools of industrial education: one in Newark, one in Trenton, and one in Hoboken. The first Board of Trustees met on July 1, 1884. The Newark Technical School opened on Monday, February 9, 1885 with 88 students who attended despite a terrible snowstorm.

The first class, mostly evening students, attended classes in a rented building at 21 West Park Street. Soon the facility became inadequate to house an expanding student body. To meet the needs of the growing school, a second fundraiser—the institution’s first capital campaign—was launched to support the construction of a dedicated building for Newark Technical School. In 1886, under the leadership of the school’s dynamic first director, Dr. Charles A. Colton, the cornerstone was laid at the intersection of High Street and Summit Place for the three-story building later to be named Weston Hall in honor of the institution’s early benefactor. A laboratory building, later to be called Colton Hall, was added to the campus in 1913. Daniel Hodgdon served as the director of Newark Technical School from 1918 to 1920.

Under Dr. Allan R. Cullimore, who led the institution from 1920 to 1949, the modest Newark Technical School was transformed into the robust Newark College of Engineering. Campbell Hall was erected in 1925. During the lean years of the Depression and World War II, only the former Newark Orphan Asylum, now Eberhardt Hall, was purchased and renovated by the college.

The post-war period was one of enormous activity during which President Cullimore—like today’s post-Cold War university presidents—challenged the college to turn “war-time thinking into peace-time thinking.” In 1946, about 75 percent of the freshman class had served in the armed forces. Robert Van Houten was acting president of NJIT from 1947 until 1950 when the board of trustees named him president. Cullimore Hall was built in 1958 and two years later the old Weston Hall was razed and replaced with the current seven-story structure. Doctoral level programs were introduced and six years later, in 1966, an 18-acre, four-building expansion was completed. William Hazell succeeded Dr. Van Houten as president of NJIT in 1970.

In 1973, with the addition of the New Jersey School of Architecture, the institution had evolved into a technological university, emphasizing a broad range of graduate and undergraduate degrees and dedication to significant research and public service. A stronger-than-ever Newark College of Engineering remained intact, but a new university name—New Jersey Institute of Technology—signified the institution’s expanded mission.

A broadened mission called for the creation of a residential campus and the opening of NJIT’s first dormitory, Redwood Hall, in 1979 began a period of steady growth that continues today. Under the leadership of Saul K. Fenster, who served as president of NJIT from 1978 to 2002, two new schools were established at the university during the 1980s, the College of Science and Liberal Arts in 1982 and the School of Management in 1988. The Albert Dorman Honors College was established in 1994, and the College of Computing Sciences was created in 2001. In 2008, New Jersey School of Architecture was reconstituted as the College of Architecture and Design.

Today, with its four-pronged mission of education, research, service and economic development, the university plays a critical role in shaping New Jersey’s future. As a major public technological university, NJIT is an important conduit through which technology flows into society.

University researchers seek new knowledge to improve processes and products for industry. Through public and private partnerships and economic development efforts, the university helps to grow new business ventures that fuel the economy. NJIT’s research program is among the fastest-growing in the nation and ranks among the top ten technological universities in the nation for research expenditures.

The university’s extensive community outreach and economic development programs include New Jersey’s first and largest small-business incubator—one of the top 25 in the nation—focusing on high-technology companies and minority-owned businesses.

NJIT has been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the National Security Agency.

As the state’s Homeland Security Technology Systems Center, NJIT serves as a consultant for technology evaluation and develops prototypes of integrated homeland security systems for testing, demonstration and training. The Center focuses on areas already identified by the federal government as vital to national security: intelligence and warning, border and transportation security, protecting critical infrastructure and key assets, emergency preparedness and response, and defending against catastrophic threats and domestic counter-terrorism.

NJIT’s educational programs prepare students to be leaders in the technology-dependent economy of the 21st century. Our educational programs grow out of a century-long tradition of academic excellence, and our student body is one of the most diverse in the United States.

Ninety-eight percent of NJIT’s full-time faculty hold the terminal degree for their field. The university’s faculty:student ratio is 1:13.

NJIT is ranked in the nation’s top tier of national research universities, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s 2009 Annual Guide to America’s Best Colleges. U.S. News also named NJIT the nation’s seventh most diverse institution of higher education. According to, NJIT ranks among the nation’s 25 “most connected” campuses. The Princeton Review named NJIT among the nation’s top 25 campuses for technology and top 150 for best value. In a study by Academic Analytics, NJIT was tenth among research universities specializing in science, technology, engineering and math based on faculty scholarly productivity. In addition, Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranks NJIT among the nation’s leading schools for graduating minority engineering and computer science students.

NJIT’s goal for the next decade is to be recognized as a top-ranked public research university, as a national leader in the education of underrepresented groups for the technological professions, and as a catalyst for a healthy New Jersey economy.

Contact: Sheryl Weinstein, public relations director, NJIT (973-596-3436)