When our Founding President Jerome Keuper convened the first night classes at Brevard Engineering College in 1958, the inaugural cohort had only a short drive from their jobs on Cape Canaveral to class in Melbourne.
As we welcome students back for our fall semester and begin to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Florida Tech’s establishment, it struck me that the distances our students now travel from their homes to our Melbourne campus reflect just how much Brevard Engineering College – renamed Florida Institute of Technology in 1966 – has evolved over its relatively short existence.
The truly international nature of our student body, with 120 countries represented last fall (that’s nearly 62 percent of all the countries in the world), says plenty about our foundation and desirability as a school, but it also bodes well for us as we evolve and grow and, just as our students do, look toward our own future.
(“It’s like traveling the world in four years,” one of our students told Fiske Guide to Colleges a few years ago about our global attendance.)
Many facets of Florida Tech that contribute to our international appeal can be traced back to our formative years: Keuper’s early and unwavering insistence on creating a challenging academic environment; a desire, certainly in the school’s second decade and onward, to strengthen the emphasis on research; the understanding that a campus must offer not just the latest amenities, such as a soothing oasis of palm trees in our botanical garden and, later, an $8.5 million dining hall, but also the latest teaching technologies, equipment and materials.
When I was named Florida Tech’s fifth president in July 2016, I articulated three core principles that complement our history while casting an eye forward: research that benefits all of humanity, student success for a lifetime, and great global citizenship.
So as our students settle back into their residence halls and apartments, as faculty once again look into the faces of the young adults in their classroom or lab and offer what might be that life-changing, a-ha moment to one of them, I am planning to do something that my colleagues in engineering would say is impossible for humans to do: look both forward and back at the same time.
It is a great way to appreciate what Florida Tech is now and what it has the potential to be, and also to understand the tenacity and foresight of Jerry Keuper and our other early supporters, who laid such a sound foundation that now, 60 years later, is allowing us to advance toward our next level of excellence. Jerry Keuper was relentless in the pursuit of excellence and that should be our watchword – relentless!
Have a great fall term and I’ll see you around campus.