National Road Interpretive Panel Dedication

June 17, 2013

Dedication Photo

Thank you, Rob. Welcome everyone, and thank you for joining us this afternoon.

As Rob mentioned, I'm Jim Conwell and soon I will be reaching my second full month as serving as Rose-Hulman's president.

I've been in a period of grand discovery here at Rose-Hulman. Every day I am learning and exploring new areas around campus, and I was interested to hear about this little gem in our history.

I am happy we are taking a few moments today to dedicate the Historic National Road, Interpretive Panel Project here at the site of Coffee Cottage. Executive Director Joe Frost will tell you a little bit more about that project in a moment.

Before coming to Rose-Hulman, I was a practicing engineer for 17 years in industry. And like most engineers, part of my personal drive is fixing and solving problems—and with any luck, leaving the world in a better place as a result.

Making a real impact and leaving a legacy are parts of the Rose-Hulman culture. This is actively demonstrated within our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Now consider this wonderfully picturesque Coffee Cottage, and its symbolism to us. We can easily envision this structure in the 1930s as an early Texaco gasoline station—when gas was a mere 17 cents a gallon.

We can imagine the stories this cottage could tell as it serviced thousands of travelers along the highway for the next 50 years.

As engineers, we can appreciate the innovations to the auto industry in those 50 years and how this structure has seen those evolutions.

This building's story gets even more interesting when you think that it was spared demolition. Thanks to the attention and generosity of Bill and Trish Eccles, the couple had the cottage moved to our Rose-Hulman property in 1999 and restored it to how travelers would have seen it during the early days of the National Road.

Since then, the cottage has served not only as a charming focal point, but also as a practical concession stand for athletic events here.

In true Rose-Hulman fashion, Bill and Trish make an inspiring partnership of giving back. They both were instrumental in the creation of the Indiana National Road Association. 

For years, Trish has been a high-energy activist and environmentalist in the Terre Haute community making a real and lasting difference, including projects with Trees, Inc.

And Bill has served our institute as a professor of electrical and computer engineering until his recent retirement. Bill was also a faculty advisor to our "Solar Phantom" solar car program—inspiring our students to innovations in transportation.

Bill and Trish, you both were already a part of our rich Rose-Hulman history—and today, with this dedication, the Coffee Cottage will be a lasting symbol of your legacy here.

Thank you, Bill and Trish Eccles, for your care and concern to this part of American and Wabash Valley history.

And in the future, we will welcome tourists and history buffs who will stop and visit this part of the Historic National Road Interpretive Panel Project.

On behalf of the faculty and staff at Rose-Hulman, I know I share their pride at our special location on the National Road. And our pride in Rose-Hulman's role in American history by providing hundreds of engineers who helped to build the transportation systems for the Crossroads of America, and beyond.

Thank you.