Thursday, May 26, 2016

Engineering Education: An MU Tradition

A recent exhibition at the MU Student Center explored the history of the College of Engineering at the University of Missouri. The next chapter in our continuing series detailing the history of each college within the university is on display in the Traditions Lounge.


The Engineering Building (Savitar, 1912)
In 1849, the University of Missouri presented “Surveying, Leveling and Classical Topography,” the first engineering course offered at an educational institution west of the Mississippi River. William Wilson Hudson, chair of the astronomy and natural history department, lead the course. In 1856, Hudson was named to the short-lived position of chair of civil engineering and two students received degrees in engineering. The events of the Civil War made apparent the need for military education and MU responded by establishing the Department of Military Engineering in 1868.


Thomas J. Lowry, a graduate of MU, served as the first dean of the College of Engineering.
(Image courtesy of University Archives, Engineering at the University of Missouri, 1850-1940)

Influenced by the Industrial Revolution of the late nineteenth century, MU expanded engineering education. The College of Agriculture established a "School of Engineering" in 1871. Engineering was officially established as a separate college with Thomas J. Lowry, an 1870 graduate of MU, as its dean. Lowry retired in 1893 and engineering education reverted to the purview of the College of Agriculture. The departments of Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering were created under his leadership. 

Members of the Engineering faculty serviced the campus through facility projects. Academic Hall, the main building of the university before the 1890s, was the site of the first exhibition of the incandescent lighting west of the Mississippi River. Arranged by the Professor Bejamin F. Thomas in January of 1883, Thomas Edison provided the equipment to light the building. The electrical lighting system installed by Thomas and his students reportedly caused the fire that destroyed Academic Hall in January, 1892.

(Academic Hall Reading Room, ca. 1887, Image courtesy of University Archives C:20/8/2)


Howard Burton Shaw,  Dean of the College of Engineering, 1906-1913 (Savitar, 1912)

The Engineering programs were once again organized as an independent college in 1906 under the leadership of Dean H.B. Shaw. Enrollment rose to 411 students in 1910-11. Courses of study included civil, electrical, chemical and mechanical engineering. In 1909, the Engineering Experiment Station opened as a laboratory for students and faculty. Their publications made the latest discoveries available to the public. A copy of The University of Missouri Bulletin featuring "Earth Roads and the Oiling of Roads", published in July 1916, is included in the exhibition.

St. Patrick was an Engineer

MU students established a national tradition for engineering students in 1903 when they chose St. Patrick as their patron. The first recognition of St. Patrick consisted of students' cutting class on St. Patrick's Day, but faculty protested. Even though the original intentions of the 1903 engineering students was a lovely, spring day-off from class, St. Patrick was supposed to have brought some aspects of Roman technology to Ireland and, as such, is an apt choose as an icon for engineers. Subsequent celebrations developed into a week of activities including gatherings on the Quad, lab demonstrations, the St. Pat's Ball, knighting of the engineering seniors and honorary guests, and the coronation of a Kind and Queen of Engineers. St. Patrick is now recognized by engineering schools across the U.S. The idea spread to the Missouri School of Mines (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) in 1908 when MU Students invited Rolla students to send a representative to Columbia for their festivities. Over the course of the twentieth century, the concept has been adopted by the engineering schools in Illinois, North Carolina, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas among others.

Early celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day by engineering students filled Francis Quadrangle with activity. In the photograph below from 1909, we see the Knights of St. Patrick on horseback in the foreground and the massive St. Patrick figure looks through a surveyor’s transit. 

St. Patrick's Day, 1909 (Image courtesy of University Archives Collection C:0/47/3)

St. Patrick, dressed in robe and beard, makes an appearance at the Engineering celebration to knight the first "Lady of St. Patrick."  Ms. Ada Wilson was the first female graduate of the Engineering program, earning a bachelor of science degree in Civil Engineering in 1907.

Miss Ada Wilson is knighted by St. Patrick, 1907 (Image Courtesy of University Archives  C:0/47/3)
For more on the St. Patrick tradition, please see this great article from MIZZOU magazine. Luck of the Irish 











  The Shamrock

With the selection of St. Patrick as the patron saint of Engineers at MU, related icons were adopted as well.  The shamrock has been used as a symbol in buttons, pamphlets and dance decorationsThe patio outside of Engineering Building East is home to a stone shamrock, a symbol of Mizzou engineering. It is said that anyone who walks across the embedded stone is destined to marry an engineer.

Shamrock mosaic, Francis Quad, near Engineering Building East (Image Courtesy of MIZZOU Magazine, Photo by Rob Hill)

One of the longest uses of the shamrock was as the moniker of student publications including the College of Engineering's yearbook published in the 1930s and the 1940s. The 1931 Engineering student annual is included in the exhibition as an example. In 1933, the Shamrock transformed from an annual yearbook to a monthly publication featuring articles of interest to Engineering students and alumni.

The Missouri Shamrock, May, 1955 (MU Student Unions' Public Arts Collection)

Professor Mendell P. Weinbach

Professor Mendell P. Weinbach (1937 Savitar)
After receiving his degrees in mathematics and engineering from MU, Professor Weinbach joined the faculty of the electrical engineering program as an instructor in 1907. He was promoted to full professor in 1923. He authored multiple textbooks for engineering education including Principles of Transmission in Telephony and Alternating Current Circuits. In the late 1920s and 1930s, he developed and patented the Log Log Duplex Vector™ Slide Rule, which improved the ability of electrical engineers to quickly make necessary mathematical computations.

Log Log Duplex Vector™ Slide Rule (MU Student Unions' Public Arts Collection)
The long and diverse history of the University of Missouri College of Engineering is a tale told with objects and images in the exhibition currently on display in the Traditions Lounge of the MU Student Center. The exhibition will be available until the end of the spring semester.  Please visit it soon!

Blog post written by Sarah S. Jones, Curator of Public Arts and PhD Candidate in Art History

Monday, April 11, 2016

Drew Nikonowicz: This World and Others Like It

A new exhibition at the MU Student Center showcases the work of an up-and-coming photographer, Drew Nikonowicz, who will graduate from MU with a BFA in May, 2016. Three works from the artist's recent show in New York City are on display on the first floor of the MU Student Center's West End. This exhibition is on display until May 12, 2016.
First Floor of the MU Student Center, on display until May 12, 2016

Drew Nikonowicz (BFA, 2016) has garnered international recognition for his photography. His work explores the meaning of landscape in a 21st century world in which you can “be” anywhere with the click of a mouse. He draws on the traditions of landscape photography begun by artists like Ansel Adams and Timothy O’Sullivan, using large format photography printed in black and white. Nikonowicz also takes advantage of 21st century digital methods to fabricate landscapes. The results of the two creation methods, born-digital processes and traditional darkroom techniques, explore the contrasts of real and imagined landscapes and the viewer’s relationship to each. In his larger project, with the images displayed next to each other, it can be difficult to discern the fabricated from the real. This dichotomy of vision reminds the viewer that they are absorbing a construction of the artist’s vision and skill rather than a true vision made with one’s own eyes, no matter if the subject is real or created digitally.

In 2015, Nikonowicz won significant photography competitions with his project, This World and Others Like It. The Aperture Foundation’s 2015 Aperture Portfolio Prize included a gallery show in New York City. Upon awarding him first place in their 2015 Student Prize, the editors of Lenscratch, an international photography magazine, said:

    “His stark black and white capture is a nod to traditional markers of the landscape but it also unifies the idea of how we consider our world, whether from the viewpoint of a canyon’s edge with a 4 x 5 camera or within a uniquely created landscape of video gaming or even architectural rendering.” (Aline Smithson, Lenscratch, June 29, 2015)

The artist often uses photographs of photographs or photographs of images on a screen, which creates a tension of authorship and viewership. His images can be about looking at images or about looking a landscape or object.  Drew Nikonowicz problematizes the viewer’s relationship to the landscape. He reminds the viewer that their experience of that landscape is mediated, sometimes through multiple layers, via technology, society, and the lens of a camera.

To view more of Drew's work, visit his website at

The MU Student Unions' Public Arts Collection loves supporting our student artists.  If you are interested in submitting works for upcoming group shows or a possible solo show, please contact us at

Blog authored by Sarah S. Jones, Curator of Public Arts and Doctoral Candidate.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

TIGERS CREATE! Student Art on Display at MU Student Center

Mizzou students excel in many areas: sports, academics, citizenship and the arts. Two recent exhibitions highlight the creative talents of MU's students in the area of visual arts, sponsored by the MU Student Unions Public Arts Collection.

A Multi-Media 2-D Exhibition

Selections submitted by students in response to the Public Arts Collection's open "Call for Artists" populate a case in the Lower Lounge of the MU Student Center until April 1, 2016.  The call was issued at the beginning of the school year and submissions are accepted from students in any major.

The MU Student Unions Public Arts Collection accepts submissions from student artists for regular exhibitions in our public spaces. The project aims to highlight the creative abilities of the MU community and provide a forum for the public display of the results of those abilities. Submissions are requested in order to create a pool of student artists from which future temporary exhibitions can be drawn. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis with no set deadline. Suggested themes include student life, the diversity of the MU community, interpersonal expressions of creativity, or social justice matters. Other subjects may be considered as appropriate for our viewing audience.

Students interested in submitting work for consideration should contact the Curator of Public Arts at

Mizzou Student Art, Lower Lounge of the MU Student Center until April 1
The current exhibition in the Lower Lounge case features six student artists working in a variety of forms: drawing, photography, printmaking and watercolors. Each artist provided a statement about their work addressing the subject matter and their process of making. 

Exhibition List
Karesse Wilkey, Senior, Art - Emphasis in Drawing
Untitled from Classical Trash Series
Pen and ink, watercolor on paper

John Schneider, MFA student
MU Physics Building

Darrell Cruse, Senior, Fine Arts
Soular System
Oil Pastel

Jeremy Johnson, Freshman, Business/Undeclared
Sending Rainbows
Digital Photography

Brianna Veal, Sophomore, Film Studies
Micron ink on sketch paper

Thomas B. Officer, Freshman, Business Administration
Echoes and Whispers (366 Days Series)
Digital Photography

Simon Tatum: Walking Into Town

Simon Tatum, a Mizzou junior majoring in art, is a native of the Cayman Islands. This work and two others from the same series were recently featured in the inaugural Undergraduate Visual Art and Design Showcase. Tatum based the subjects of the series on photographs he found in Cayman National Archives.  His profile has recently been featured in the Columbia Tribune and MIZZOU Magazine. His recent work was included in the Undergraduate Visual Art and Design Showcase at Jesse Hall.
In Walking Into Town, a lone woman leans on her staff for support while walking away from her secluded home. Her body seems hunched and worn from labor. Is she dressed for a market day with a kerchief covering her head in deference to the sun and a bag slung over her shoulder?  The artist’s loose, painterly style creates pockets of deep contrast between the ink and the creamy ground, suggesting the dusty textures and heat of the scene.

Simon Tatum, Walking Into Town, Collection of the Artist, Lower Lounge, MU Student Center
 Artist’s Statement 
As a young man from the Cayman Islands, my artwork focuses on the personal exploration of my people and the important elements of our history, such as migration, maritime culture, slavery, segregation and religion. My recent projects revisit old photographs from the collection of the Cayman National Archive.  I create gestural representations from these photographs by finger painting with ink media onto a frosted acetate surface. I find the photographs in the Cayman Archive collection to be a source of buried truth, indicating and supporting towards the racial dignity of the Caymanian people. I also understand that these photographs no longer contain their original authority in modern Caymanian social politics. This is why I hope to employ the episodes of Cayman history that are represented in these photographs and find a new meaning from them that can be relevant towards the country’s current sociopolitical condition. 
Furthermore, these paintings signify my ambition to create artworks that will educate both Caymanian people and others from outside cultures on the relevance of Cayman history. One of the influences for these paintings stems from essays written by John Berger and Walter Benjamin (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction). Their essays spoke about the evolving purpose of artwork during the age of mechanical reproduction and helped me recognize the importance of the visual media when interpreting and reinterpreting the history of the Cayman Islands. My method of creating finger paintings on frosted acetate is related to the process of early film cameras which captured exposures on cellulose acetate film. Unlike the camera, I am able to make more biased decisions when interpreting the subjects of the original archive photographs. My physical, gestural marks and my research of Cayman history form a unique, personal inflection that transcends the documentary format of the photographs. My own inflection is necessary because it expresses my desire to reconnect with my history and situate it into the broader historical dialogue. - Simon Tatum, Fall 2015

The MU Student Unions Public Arts Collection supports our students in their creative endeavors. Please join us for more exhibitions in the future.

Blog post by Sarah S. Jones, Curator of Public Arts and PhD Candidate, Art History