TSPE Dallas Chapter History

About the TSPE Dallas Chapter
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Humble Beginnings

Although the Dallas Chapter was not founded until December 31, 1941, its history began with the organization of the TSPE in 1936. Many Dallas engineers actively participated in that event. As a matter of fact, 0. H. Koch was one of those most instrumental in getting the state organization off the ground. And, for the next five years he and a few other engineers from the Dallas area regularly traveled to Austin for the Travis Chapter meetings.

It soon became evident, however, that if the Organization was to flourish, additional chapters would be required. And, on the last day of the month in 1941, Koch was successful in having all members of the Travis Chapter who were from the North Texas area transferred to the new North Texas Chapter. It became the third chapter in the still small TSPE, and its first slate of officers was elected to serve for the year 1942. E. L. Myers was president, C. W. Mier was vice-president and Elgin B. Robertson was secretary-treasurer. According to an issue of the TEXAS PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER, the Dallas Chapter planned to hold "at least four regular meetings" during the year.

The Chapter had its problems that first year. The war drew heavily on its membership. Even though there was a steady stream of new applicants, membership decreased from 73 in February to 67 in December. Yet Dallas engineers were filled with enthusiasm. The membership roster included 162 names by 1944 despite the fact that other chapters had splintered off the Dallas group, resulting in many members being transferred. In 1945, the West Texas Chapter (later to be known as the Fort Worth Chapter) claimed 43 of its members yet a net gain of 14 still was to be realized.

Post-War Growth and a Name Change

Nineteen-hundred and forty-six brought a new era and a new name. The war was over, and vast numbers of engineers had returned home. So numerous were North Texas engineers, in fact, that two new area chapters had already been formed. And, in order to eliminate confusion, the North Texas Chapter renamed itself the Dallas Chapter. Despite controversy as to the legitimacy of this action (no record of a written ballot could be found) the Chapter has been referred to as the Dallas Chapter ever since.

"...Membership moved to the porch for 15 minutes in order to hear Harry Truman.
It reconvened inside to finish the conducting of official business."
A new meeting place was also secured. Prior to 1946, most meetings had been held at the DAC, with a few later ones at the YMCA. But the Dreyfuss Club gained in favor. Minutes of the October, 1946, meeting state that the "membership moved to the porch for 15 minutes in order to hear Harry Truman. It reconvened inside to finish the conducting of official business."

The Dallas Chapter got an additional boost in 1947 when it hosted the first TSPE annual meeting to be held in Dallas. The enthusiasm it generated proved to be beneficially contagious, and the membership increased that year to 257.

Engineers' Week '51

Engineers' Week became a part of the Chapter's activities in February of '51, and the highlight of the week proved to be a dinner in honor of the engineering faculty of SMU. It was held in the year-old Engineer's Club and was such a huge success that the dinner was adopted an annual event.

In 1952, 0. H. Koch was the honoree, and was declared "Man of the Week" by the Chapter. (Mr. Koch had been singled out by Dallas professional engineers in 1949 for his long service to the Chapter, the profession and the TSPE.) In 1952, the "Man of the Week" became the "Engineer of the Year" and W. W. Lynch was the first recipient of that award. (It wasn't until 1967 that the first "Young Engineer of the Year" award was made, with Glenn D. Houser as the recipient.)

Engineers' Week in Dallas got its next major boost a decade later when the Dallas chapter joined the AIEE, ASCE, ASME, AICE and SPE of AIME in the planning and execution of the week's festivities. So successful was the cooperative effort that a similar arrangement has existed since that time.

The Dallas Chapter embarked on significant educational programs at the same time it sought to inform the public of the engineers' accomplishments through Engineers' Week. In 1952, for instance, it began participating in the Engineer Club-sponsored dinner for high school seniors interested in engineering. In 1957, the student chapter was formed at SMU.

Just as the hosting of the State Convention in 1947 had given the Chapter additional impetus, so did the hosting of the National Convention exactly 10 years later. By then, the membership totaled 750, and new members were continually being added.

Influencing Change

Always interested in matters of public concern, the attention of the Chapter focused on a traffic problem in downtown Dallas in 1957. Acting on a challenge from the mayor of Dallas, the Chapter appointed a committee to study the traffic problem and enlisted the cooperation of Marvin Springer, the director of planning for the city of Dallas, and after considerable study, the Committee submitted a comprehensive report to R. L. Thorton, who was then the mayor. Rejected was a concept of abolishing traffic from the downtown streets. Among its recommendations? A tunnel system for the moving of trucks, which is now being developed in planning and construction.

More recently, the Chapter has formed special committees to study and recommend solutions for such problems as improvements to White Rock Lake and the hiring of consultants by the city. Chapter members are routinely recommended by the Chapter for appointment to various advisory boards, and a significant number has been appointed over the years by the city council.

Communication and Publications

Part of the Chapter's growth and success must be attributed to its excellent means of communication. And, because of its size, much of this communication has been possible because of the Chapter's own publication, THE PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER. At first, it existed in the form of a single-page monthly meeting notice; however, it emerged as a full-fledged publication in 1955 when Don P. Wooldridge was editor.

In 1960, when an executive secretary was hired, that person assumed the responsibility for the printing ane mailing of the publication and the selling of its ads. The executive secretary also became the editor in 1964, working with an associate editorial board of PE and EIT chapter members. And, engineers' wives have had a voice, too. Since its beginning in 1955, there has been an associate editor for the Ladies Auxiliary.

Despite the transfer of a number of members to the new Mid Cities Chapter in 1966, the Dallas Chapter found that its roster had reached 1200 by the first few months of '69. Therefore, efforts were made to organize an additional Dallas Chapter to be known as the Belt Line Chapter. After a brief organizational period, it became the Preston Trails Chapter in March of 1970.

The early l970's also saw a large membership necessitate the moving of meetings to the Engineer's Club of Dallas and the computerization of Chapter files. The first computerized mailing was made to the membership in January, 1973, with no apparent difficulty. It was but one more example of the Dallas Chapter's ability to change with the changing times.

- Taken from "History of State and Chapters, 1936 - 1973" compiled by Donald H. McCoskey, 620.009 T355T Dallas J. Erik Jonsson Central Library.