NSPE Celebrates 75 Years

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March 2009 

NSPE Celebrates 75 Years

NSPE Founder David Steinman
NSPE founder David Steinman, P.E. stands on his signature project, the 26,372 ft.-long
Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. The Mackinac
is currently the world's third-longest suspension bridge.

This coming September marks the 75th anniversary of NSPE and its efforts to promote professional excellence.

Plans for the creation of a new national nontechnical organization dedicated to the interests of PEs began to take shape in May 1934. At the time, approximately 28 states had established laws governing the practice of engineering.

To create an organization that would protect the interests of professional engineers and advance the profession, structural engineer David Steinman, P.E., held a meeting in New York City of four state societies of professional engineers: the New Jersey Association of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, the New York State Society of Professional Engineers, the Pennsylvania State Society of Professional Engineers, and the Connecticut Society of Professional Engineers. A South Carolina resident also took part in the meeting, standing in for a potential additional state society.

During the meeting, committees were formed and the state societies contributed $25 to cover the nascent organization's initial expenses.

Four months later, on September 3, NSPE held an official organizational meeting. At the headquarters of the New York State Society, leaders adopted a constitution and elected officers, including David Steinman as president of the 3,000 member organization. Steinman had previously served as president of the American Association of Engineers and the New York State Society of Professional Engineers.

The new president began his duties with a keynote address. According to NSPE's former executive director Paul Robbins, P.E., who chronicled NSPE's first 50 years in his book Building for Professional Growth: A History of the National Society of Professional Engineers 1934–1984, Steinman discussed key principles that would remain bedrocks of the Society. NSPE, Steinman said, existed to protect engineers from competition from those who were unqualified to practice engineering, from unethical practices, and from inadequate compensation. The Society also aimed to increase the public's appreciation and recognition of the role of the engineer.

"Through membership and active participation in NSPE, the individual engineer renders his contribution toward making engineering a better and more satisfying profession than he found it," Steinman said.

The August/September issue of PE magazine will have a special section devoted to the Society's 75th anniversary.

Additional background information for this article was taken from Paul Robbins's Building for Professional Growth.

NSPE's Founding Objectives

Before the NSPE constitution was adopted on September 3, 1934, NSPE delegates adopted 10 objectives prepared by Executive Secretary T. Keith Legare of South Carolina. These objectives were published in NSPE's official publication, The American Engineer, in January 1935.

  1. To promote the public welfare and to advance and protect the economic and professional interests of the engineer, individually and collectively, through united effort, legislation, and public relations.
  2. To organize, coordinate, unite, and extend the activities of state societies of professional engineers and their country chapters.
  3. To strengthen, unify, extend, and enforce state legislation protecting the public welfare, the practice of engineering, and the designation "Engineer."
  4. To protect the engineer against exploitation, unprofessional competition, unlawful encroachment, and restriction of rights of practice.
  5. To improve conditions for employment and methods of engaging engineering services.
  6. To wage a militant campaign for more adequate compensation for engineering services.
  7. To extend employment services and build up a reserve fund for assisting engineers in distress.
  8. To encourage and guide student engineers and engineering assistants.
  9. To promote cooperative and fraternal relations within the profession.
  10. To conduct a planned campaign for the advancement of the engineering profession in public recognition, confidence, and esteem.

Source: Building for Professional Growth: A History of the National Society of Professional Engineers 1934–1984, by Paul Robbins, P.E.