Edwin Ernest Dreese was the next chair of the Ohio State EE Department in succession to Frank Cary Caldwell.
Born in Edmore, Michigan in 1895, his path was a bit different. He entered the University of Michigan in 1915 for Literature, Science and the Arts, but transferred to Engineering the second year. As the war started, he was sent to work in the Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C. where he continued to grow in his career. Through promotion, he continued from a private to a Second Lieutenant in the Signal Corps. His leadership grew from encapsulating the distribution of training equipment to a recommendation for promotion to Captain of the Air Service Detachment. In completing his college courses, he achieved the honor of both joining Tau Beta Pi with all “A” marks during his term in college and being elected to Sigma Xi, the honorary Scientific Society.
E.E. Dreese continued his time with the University of Michigan as a professor working on his Master of Science in Engineering, in Mathematics and Pure Science. His efforts lead to the development of courses in relation to radio telegraphy in the school’s ROTC as well as the electromagnetic properties of coils to transformers and the influence of iron in varying magnetic fields. He additionally spent time in the industry, namely with Fairbanks-Morse Company and Lincoln Electric before taking on his appointment as Head of the Electrical Engineering Department of The Ohio State University in 1930. His opening remarks as the second chairman highlighted the future of electricity and society’s interaction with it. At the time, he was adamant that to be an engineer was no longer lowbrow or someone to be a “‘rough-neck’ and wear corduroy pants”. He likened education at Ohio State to being able to open a safe: those educated would know the principles of combinations to open the safe while those simply trained would only know a single combination. A trait that resonates still today, he touched on the subject that the industry of electrical engineering was everchanging and one must understand the fundamentals to apply to the diverse specializations in order to adapt. He also took a nod to soft skills and being able to develop well rounded students outside of engineering through non-engineering supporting curriculum. Speaking from past experience, he provided hope for undergraduates to continue through their path in advanced education and greater possibilities. His energy brought progressiveness to the department, with intention to honor but not hold too tightly to tradition.
Many alums will recognize Dreese from the name of the building holding the large ECE lecture hall, electronics laboratories, faculty offices and the department front office. If you enjoyed this profile, join our email list to make sure you get notified for the next article in the series.