Celebrating Florida Tech's 50th Anniversary

1958 - 2008

Florida Institute of Technology Seal

Ad Astra Per Scientiam

Throughout 2008, the Evans Library will present an on-going display commemorating the university's 50th anniversary. Highlights will include Florida Tech's presidents, the students and their organizations, the faculty and the wealth of research studies they have contributed to society, and finally a closer look at the Evans Library's collections.

Keuper, founder and first president, 1958-1986 Miller, 2nd president, 1986-1987 Weaver, 3rd president, 1987-2002 Catanese, 4th president, 2002 -

L-R: Jerome P. Keuper, John E, Miller, Lynn E. Weaver, Anthony J. Catanese

View a list of publications that were featured in the Evans Library's 2008 "Celebrating Florida Tech's 50th Anniversary!" exhibit.

KeuperWhen painting a picture of the university's remarkable start and continued growth over the past 50 years, Florida Tech's Humanities and Communication Professor and author, Gordon Patterson, summarized it best in the introduction to his book, Florida Institute of Technology. He stated, "The story of Florida Institute of Technology is an improbable one. In 1958, a young physicist named Jerry Keuper, drawn to Cape Canaveral by the space program, decided to launch a university."

The following excerpts characterize what came next.

"Initially, Keuper and his confederates called their school Brevard Engineering College (BEC)..."

"The first contribution to the school was 37 cents. Classes met in three rented junior high school rooms. In 1959, local school officials blocked the continued use of the rented classrooms because Florida Tech's faculty and students did not believe that segregation had any place in education. The college found a temporary home in an old church and a decommissioned Navy barracks. In 1961, the university moved to its permanent home in Melbourne."

Image"Many thought the college would not succeed. Fortunately, there were a few men and women who disagreed. Werner von Braun was one."

"He called the university 'Countdown College.' Virgil 'Gus' Grissom, one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts, was a cherished friend. In 1962, Grissom received the university's first honorary doctorate in space science at the June commencement exercises. In 1964, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (SACS) granted the college accreditation. In 1966, the college changed its name to Florida Institute of Technology."

"During the 1960s and 1970s, Florida Tech grew at a phenomenal pace. Dormitories sprang up overnight."

Dorm Room Image"FIT administrators required students to follow a stringent dress code. The 1968 Student Handbook explained that 'College dress is a matter of good taste...Shorts, slacks, and pedal pushers are considered inappropriate for campus wear...Male students should shave daily...Beards and 'beatnik' hairdos are not acceptable at FIT.' Pictured here is a dormitory study area."

- Gordon Patterson, Florida Institute of Technology

Dorm Room Image"Dormitory life took on a different character in the 1970s. Male and female students were allowed to visit one another. The Rathskeller, located in the basement of Evans Hall in 1973, provided students with a place to meet after class. The dormitory was named in honor of Florence Evans, the college's first woman trustee."

- Gordon Patterson, Florida Institute of Technology

"New programs in biology, chemistry, aeronautics, business, psychology, environmental studies, science education, oceanography, the humanities, and communication joined the flourishing engineering and science curriculum. In the 1980s, leadership of the university passed to a new generation. Since 1988, Florida Tech has redoubled its effort to provide a quality education for its students. During the past decade, the university has committed itself to becoming a world-class center of research. The first signs of success are showing themselves in extraordinary work in medicine, pharmaceuticals, meteorology, and the engineering sciences."

"There is something magical about this university. Florida Tech radiates a kind of energy and vision, a passion and intensity. Florida Tech has made a tradition of confounding skeptics and realizing its dreams…"

- Gordon Patterson, from his book, Florida Institute of Technology

"John Evans, a Florida citrus grower and cattleman, bequeathed to the university his extensive property holdings on New Haven Avenue. This property (purchased by the DeBartolo Corporation) was used as the site of the Melbourne Square Mall. The Evans library is dedicated to the memory of both Evans' mother and Evans' wife."


"In 1971, John Miller asked NASA biologist George Webster to lead the newly formed biology department. Pictured here in 1979 are, from left to right, R. Turner, J. Morris, W. Alevizon, G. Webster, D. Looney, C. Sorrell, G. Cohen, G. Wells, K. Kasweck, C. Polson, and K. Clark." (Courtesy of Ad Astra)

"Eleanor E. Storrs, research professor in biology at Florida Tech's Medical Research Institute (MRI), is explaining how to nab an armadillo to television actor James MacArthur (Hawaii-Five O) for the Disney Channel's Scheme of Things. From 1971 until the late 1980s, MRI researchers R. Jones, A. Dhople, E. Storrs, and J. Thomas conducted research on infectious diseases and other medical topics." (Courtesy of University Publications)


"The School of Aeronautics "Flying Falcons" won national recognition for Florida Tech's aviation program in the 1980s. Pictured here are members of the 1984 team."

"Fr. Doug Bailey (right, campus ministry) and Professor Maurice Pujol (management, with cross) are shown here at the Easter sunrise beach service in 1983. Florida Tech's Campus Ministry opened in 1971. In 1974, Fr. George Moreau expanded the ministry to include a counseling center. The School of Psychology assumed responsibility for the counseling center in the 1980s. In 1994, the university dedicated the new home for the All Faiths Center and United Campus Ministry at the south end of campus." (Courtesy of University Publications)


"By 1975, Florida Tech's women's crew team was winning national attention. Jeanne Flanagan ('79 Oceanography) was the first Florida Tech graduate to win a gold medal (at the 1984 Olympic Games). Pictured here is the 1974 women's crew team returning from practice." (Courtesy of University Publications)

Courtesy of University Publications

One of the covered bridges shortly after it was completed (left) and many years and footsteps later (right).

"Pictured here are members of Florida Tech's Buildings and Grounds department at the completion of one of the campus's covered bridges. Dale Simcox (foreman) devoted countless hours to landscaping the campus. Simcox Square (across from the School of Business) is named in his honor. Pictured from left to right, are (front row) D. Simcox, F. Clark, J. Toker, G. Sias, D. Lewis, B. Fleming, and J. Thompson; (back row) T. Pineo and H. Hughes." (Courtesy of University Publications)

photo by J. M. Savage

Florida Tech's Botanical Garden

"Before 1900, the natural shelter of tall trees, rich soils and water protected abundant plant and animal species. An ancient and vibrant Florida hammock, the basis of the gardens, is among the most productive of Florida landscapes. Known as Cat Head, early settlers marveled at the flocks of Carolina parakeets and fished the Crane Creek tributaries you see today. Through the vision of President and founder Jerome Keuper, Florida Tech preserved the forest's integrity. A variety of rare palms were incorporated in the sheltered depths of the forest."

- Florida Institute of Technology Botanical Garden: The Garden Unfolding brochure

Additional information about Florida Tech:

Academics: Colleges, Catalog, Library, Faculty Profiles

Campus Life: Athletics, Housing, Maps and Tours

Research: Centers & Institutes, Patents, Sponsored Programs

More about Florida Tech: History

In Florida Tech's 50-year history, over 240 student organizations have gathered to contribute their sportsmanship, expertise, and knowldege to the campus community, the Melbourne community, and the world-wide community. Over 100 organizations are active today.

Sunit Williams

Though Florida Tech has graduated numerous individuals who went on to very successful careers, some of the more nationally recognized graduates include STS-116 astronauts Sunita Williams and Joan E. Higginbotham. In the area of professional sports, Boston Red Sox pitcher and 2-time World Series player, Tim Wakefield was drafted during his junior year at Florida Tech.

From a mere 37 cents fifty years ago to a current endowment of $42.9 million, Dr. Jerome Keuper's dream helped to fulfill thousands of others' dreams and continues to be a dream shared by many!

Columbia Village, Photo by K. Sklenicka Photo by K. Sklenicka Botanical Garden, Photo by J. M. Savage
Rathskellar, Photo by K. Sklenicka Florida Institute of Technology Seal Crawford, Photo by K. Sklenicka
Olin Life Sciences Bldg, Photo by K. Sklenicka Fencing session, Photo by K. Sklenicka clipart



This site is presented by the Florida Institute of Technology Evans Library Instructional Programs Team.


© Florida Institute of Technology - All rights reserved

This site was updated July 23, 2008.

All quotes are from the book, Florida Institute of Technology by Gordon Patterson and are used here with his kind permission.

PHOTO CREDITS: Photographs of Sunita Williams and Joan Higginbotham are provided by NASA (Public Domain).

Black and white photos and captions are from the book, Florida Institute of Technology by Gordon Patterson.

Color photographs, unless otherwise noted, were taken by Kevin Sklenicka and Joanne M. Savage.