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History & Leadership

Since 1874, Rose‑Hulman’s rich history and visionary leadership have provided the foundation for excellence in engineering education.
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History & Leadership

Founded by businessman Chauncey Rose in 1874, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (then Rose Polytechnic Institute) has thrived under the dedicated leaders whose vision has propelled the institute from its beginnings as a little-known, all-male engineering college to a world-class institution on the leading edge of engineering education in the United States. Today’s Board of Trustees, President Jim Conwell, and cabinet members are committed to continuing, and building upon, this legacy of excellence.

Learn more about our history and leadership below.

Carved wooden elephant sculpture in the president’s office.

Institute Leadership

One of the beauties of a small campus is that students, faculty and administration work closely together to fulfill the school's mission and vision. The institute is led by President James C. Conwell, PhD, PE, who works with members of the President’s Cabinet to advance the initiatives set in Rose-Hulman’s strategic plan. Overseeing the institute is a diverse and dedicated Board of Trustees. 

Chauncey Rose

Visionary Leadership

Chauncey Rose, entrepreneur, leading citizen, and philanthropist, envisioned and incorporated the first private engineering college west of the Alleghenies “for the intellectual and practical education of young men.” Founded in 1874, Rose Polytechnic Institute benefitted from the extraordinary leadership of individuals whose contributions and key decisions laid the foundation for its continued success. Critical support from the Hulman family during the 20th century enabled the institution to grow and thrive as Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Visionary guidance from Charles O. Thompson, Carl Leo Mees, John A. Logan, Samuel F. Hulbert and successive Rose-Hulman presidents has enabled the institute to continue its legacy of excellence. 

Graph paper with handwritten notes.

Academic Rigor

From the beginning, the institute has sought to provide its students with a firm foundation of academic excellence. Rose Polytechnic’s first president, Charles O. Thompson, said "the engineer is distinct from the artisan or craftsman by exactly the amount of his knowledge of the scientific principles which underlie the practice of his profession." Rose-Hulman’s mission remains to provide the world's best undergraduate science, engineering, and mathematics education in an environment of individual attention and support.

Hatfield Hall exterior shot

Lifelong Relationships

The Rose-Hulman experience builds lifelong connection. These “Forever Rose” relationships have supported the growth and enhancement of the institute, its facilities, and programs. Since its move to the current campus in 1922, Rose-Hulman has benefited from the generosity of many alumni, faculty, and staff whose belief in its mission and love for its community have been manifested through investments of time, expertise, and financial support. Many of the buildings enjoyed by students today, such as the White Chapel, Hatfield Hall, and Percopo Residence Hall, trace their roots to a legacy first planted years ago by a donor with a desire to enhance the Rose-Hulman experience for the next generation. 

Herman Moench

Faculty Commitment

At the heart of our academic culture stand the dedicated professors, past and present, whose love of teaching and commitment to student success have been instrumental in making Rose-Hulman a leader in undergraduate engineering, mathematics, and science education. Many have been recognized nationally for expertise in their respective fields and skill in teaching. Just as in years past, when Herman Moench and Bob Steinhauser engaged students and helped mold them into world-changers, faculty today continue to serve as wise teachers and beloved mentors to the next generation of engineers, scientists, and mathematicians.

Student with mask acting in Phantom of the Opera

Personal Growth

A Rose-Hulman education is more than simply mastering textbook material. Surrounded by a campus full of artwork and enrichment opportunities, our students can enhance and apply their academic knowledge outside the classroom. Here, solid instruction is combined with hands-on experiences, cultural engagement, and the ability for students to pursue their individual passions. Through performing arts, competition teams, study-abroad opportunities, and community involvement, our students become well-rounded graduates ready to make a difference in their workplaces and communities. 

Abe Silverstein

Alumni Impact

When Abe Silverstein graduated from Rose Polytechnic in 1929, only two decades had passed since the first passenger flight. Forty years later, Silverstein would oversee the Apollo 11 mission that successfully put a man on the moon. Silverstein is among many notable alumni, such as Bernard Vonderschmitt (co-founder of Xilinx Inc., the world's largest programmable logic supplier), and Frederick Garry (recipient of the National Medal of Technology for his leadership and innovation in jet engine technology) who made contributions to science, industry, and society, improving quality of life, advancing research, and pioneering technology that touches lives around the world.  Rose-Hulman’s alumni continue to make an impact by using their knowledge and creativity to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges. 

Exterior shot of arched entrance to Olin Advanced Learning Center

Foundation Support

Through the years, Rose-Hulman has enjoyed the support of several foundations that have understood the importance of the institute’s mission. Enhancements to facilities and programs have been made possible because of the generosity of charitable foundations. Our Olin Advanced Learning Center was built with the help of the Franklin W. Olin Foundation. Students are encouraged to develop an entrepreneurial mindset through programs funded by the Kern Family Foundation and Lilly Endowment, which also has supported numerous other programs on campus, along with Homework Hotline and undergraduate research. The Oakley Foundation has supported research and enriched the Rose-Hulman experience through its funding of two observatories, one on campus and one in Australia.

Students working on prototype at Rose-Hulman Ventures.

Innovation

Innovation comes naturally at Rose-Hulman, but enterprises such as Rose-Hulman Ventures, and facilities such as the Branam Innovation Center—“the BIC”—cultivate it to a higher degree. The student competition teams that call the BIC home get valuable hands-on experience as they build, test, and refine their designs. At Ventures, student interns have the opportunity to tackle projects for clients in a variety of industries. Both experiences enable students to apply and build on their classroom lessons, honing their innovative abilities in the process, before graduation.

International students holding flags from their countries.

Diversity

Rose-Hulman’s reputation of excellence extends around the globe, bringing to campus the most diverse freshman class to date, with one quarter of those students being female. Our diverse campus community provides opportunities for learning about other cultures, traditions, and beliefs, and helps prepare students to thrive in an increasingly global economy. We continue to benefit from partnerships with other institutions of higher learning around the world, as our students learn to collaborate across cultures in international internships, project teams, and study-abroad experiences.

Mary Greer answering the telephone.

Culture

Ask anyone in the Rose-Hulman community what makes the institute special, and it’s likely they will mention the family atmosphere. From the president to the residence life staff, the faculty, housekeepers, and everyone in between, the community goes above and beyond for its students. Personal attention is not just a catch phrase here; it’s a way of life. Students know they have a genuine support network, and alumni remember fondly the people who encouraged and mentored them throughout their time at Rose-Hulman. 

Flame of the Millennium sculpture in front of fall foliage.

The Journey Continues

History is never truly a thing of the past. It is ever-evolving as we add our stories to those of previous generations. And so our journey continues, in the present day stories of faculty, alumni, students, and staff who each leave an indelible mark upon the fabric of the institution.

Vintage black and white photo of Rose Polytechnic sign near front entrance.

Detailed History

Read more about the history of Rose-Hulman.

More Rose-Hulman History

Dive deeper into the history of Rose-Hulman using the links below.