About COE - History

History of the College of Engineering

110th Year: Nebraska College of Engineering

Click the arrows below to view the entire College of Engineering timeline.


The Industrial College was established, including agriculture and the School of Mechanical Arts, a trade school. The first civil engineering classes were taught.


The Mechanical Arts Building was constructed and housed Engineering Mechanics, Civil Engineering and the Math Department.


Agricultural Engineering was established.


The colleges were reorganized by an act of the State Legislature. Industrial College became the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture.


The college was housed in the Mechanical Engineering Building (now Richards Hall).


The Agricultural Engineering Building was built on East Campus. Now L.W. Chase Hall, the building houses the Biological Systems Engineering department.


Electrical Engineering moved into the newly built Ferguson Hall. The Mechanical Arts Building was remodeled primarily for civil engineering and renamed Stout Hall.


The Chemical Engineering department was added in a wing of Avery Hall. Nebraska Hall was purchased from the Elgin Watch Factory, adding 440,000 square feet. It was not until early 1971 that the engineering college moved into the west half of the building.


UNL's College of Engineering and Omaha's School of Engineering and Technology merged to form the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering & Technology. The Lincoln city and east campuses housed nine departments; the Omaha campus housed four departments.


Walter Scott Engineering Center (SEC) was dedicated and housed laboratories, research centers and the engineering shop. Later, the link between SEC and Nebraska Hall was formed and became home to Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.


Stout Hall was torn down and replaced with Manter Hall Life Sciences Building. Architecture became a separate college on the UNL city campus.


The Peter Kiewit Institute for Information Science, Technology and Engineering was created in Omaha. PKI includes the UNL College of Engineering, the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Information Science and Technology, and local industry. The state-of-the-art facility opened for classes in 1999.


Architectural Engineering was implemented and housed in Omaha.


The college broke ground on Donald F. Othmer Hall, home to the department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and the Dean's Office. The four-story building features a biological process development facility, the first of its kind in an American university; and next generation distance education technology. Othmer Hall opened for classes in fall 2002.


To reflect its changing educational mission, the college changed its name to the College of Engineering. Technology was removed in accordance with a national movement to eliminate technology development programs in engineering curricula.


The college discontinued its industrial systems technology major and construction engineering technology program.


The College of Engineering celebrated its 100th anniversary with more than 3,080 undergraduate and graduate students.


Jim O'Hanlon was named interim dean for the college following the departure of David Allen.


The Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering was eliminated as part of university budget cuts. Timothy Wei was selected as engineering dean.


The departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer and Electronics Engineering merged into one unit, offering academic programs in Lincoln and Omaha.


Software Engineering was added as an undergraduate major through the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.


Lance C. Pérez was named interim dean of the college for a three-year appointment.


The college had another record-breaking enrollment, with 3,772 undergraduate and graduate students (Fall 2017). After hiring 65 new faculty since 2014, the college boasts nearly 230 faculty, serving programs on the City Campus and East Campus in Lincoln and the Scott Campus in Omaha.


In May, Lance C. Pérez was named Dean of the College of Engineering.

University Hall
University Hall

In the Beginning

The University of Nebraska first offered civil engineering courses in 1877 within the Industrial College in Lincoln. In 1898 the Mechanical Arts Building (later Stout Hall) was built to house Engineering Mechanics, Civil Engineering and the Math Department. In 1909, state legislation reorganized the old Industrial College into two offshoots:

  • The College of Engineering
  • The College of Agriculture
Mechanical Engineering Building, now Richards Hall
Mechanical Arts

The engineering college then had 400 students and, by 1911, its first real home in Mechanical Arts Hall. In 1918 at East Campus, the Agricultural Engineering Building was built. Renamed L. W. Chase Hall after the first head of Ag Engineering, the building now houses the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, which includes Agricultural Engineering.

Around 1950, Electrical Engineering moved into the newly built Ferguson Hall. Mechanical Arts Hall was renamed Stout Hall, named for Oscar Van Pelt Stout, who led the college during World War I. This facility contained laboratories, classrooms, offices and an engineering library, and was used until 1974.

A chemical engineering wing was added to Avery Hall and in 1958, Chemical Engineering became a department.

Nebraska Hall
Nebraska Hall

Enrollment grew and technologies advanced, necessitating more (and updated) engineering facilities. The purchase of Nebraska Hall in 1958 from the Elgin Watch Factory gave the university an additional 440,000 square feet; however, it was not until early 1971 that engineering moved into the west half of the building. Nebraska Hall houses the departments of:

  • The Durham School: Construction Engineering and Construction Management
  • Civil Engineering 
  • Mechanical & Materials Engineering 
  • Engineering Library 
Scott Engineering Center
Scott Engineering Center

Scott Engineering Center (SEC), dedicated in 1972, holds laboratories, research centers and engineering shops. Later, a link was added between SEC and Nebraska Hall -- this houses:

  • Electrical Engineering

Computer Science and Engineering resides in Avery Hall and, in 2008, new computing, classroom and office spaces opened in the Schorr Center: a specially renovated facility located in Nebraska's famous Memorial Stadium.

The College of Engineering encompassed architecture until that program became a separate college in1974. In the early 1970s, the University of Nebraska became a system of universities including UNL and a municipal university in Omaha. A merger with Omaha's College of Engineering and Technology formed the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering. Academic area in Omaha now include:

Avery Hall
Avery Hall
Schorr Center
Schorr Center
  • The Durham School: Architectural Engineering, Construction Engineering, Construction Management
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Electronics Engineering
PKI - The Peter Kiewit Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.
Peter Kiewit Institute

In 1995, The Peter Kiewit Institute took shape in Omaha to better meet the changing needs of students and local industry. The Institute brings together the UNL College of Engineering, the University of Nebraska at Omaha College of Information Science and Technology, and local industry. Its goal is to merge the cultures of higher education and business to create an ideal learning environment for Nebraska's information science professionals for the next century. The Peter Kiewit Institute opened in1999 with each college occupying a wing; the Institute is located at 67th and Pacific streets in Omaha, on land owned by UNO.

In 2003, Donald F. Othmer Hall, adjacent to Scott Engineering Center, became the home of the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Dean's Office suite.

  • Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Othmer Hall
Othmer Hall

The $24 million building features the latest in research laboratory design, including a bio-process manufacturing facility, the first of its kind in any American university; a state-of-the-art computer control system for laboratories; and next-generation distance education technology. Funding came from the estate of Mildred Topp Othmer, a 1928 UNL graduate who was the widow of Donald F. Othmer, noted chemical engineer and professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York in Brooklyn. Donald earned his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering at UNL in 1924and later accumulated 150 patents in a variety of fields. In 1947, he and Raymond Kirk, a Polytechnic colleague, published the Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. The 27-volume collection is a mainstay in virtually every university, research facility and company that uses chemical processes.