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A History of the Engineer’s Club of Lincoln

By Walter R. Meier



According to A.A. Luebs, the Engineers’ Club of Lincoln was formally organized January 31, 1925. On that day, William H. Pahl called together a small group of Lincoln engineers for that purpose. Records have been carefully kept for posterity since that day. In Lueb’s History of the Engineer’s Club of Lincoln (1955), he said the club’s roots can be traced to 1912. From that year until WW-I, about 25 engineers gathered informally each month to hear and take part in discussions of various technical subjects.


According to Luebs, the informal group disbanded in 1919, because many of its members had volunteered for service to their country. However, Luebs said, by 1925, the men had returned, settled into responsible jobs and longed for an association again. Luebs wrote that this time they made it a permanent organization. A pre-composed constitution was adopted at their first meeting. Lueb’s History established the following objectives as being the initial aims of the club:

    1. To promote closer contact and interaction of members of the various technical professions.
    2. To become familiar with the works, development and objects of the various technical professions.
    3. To enhance the technical professions in the opinion of the general public.
    4. To assist in the solution of the public questions involving engineering and scientific considerations.

   

Without question, those are still the club’s aims.


In the early years of the club, the principal employers of Lincoln engineers were the CB&Q railroad, the University of Nebraska and the State Highway Department. But, in time, other governmental engineering agencies grew. Utilities matured, manufacturing sprang up, and industrial goods suppliers became employers of engineers. Consequently, the club truly became a cosmopolitan organization. The club’s success can be measured by the universal sharing of disciplines which has taken place at regular meetings. And by the socializing which has developed between those with different practices.


Lincoln engineers scattered in the 1930’s: they migrated with other Nebraskans because of drought and depression. During that decade, the state population decreased by 65,000. Yet, many engineers who moved from Lincoln have clung to their memberships in the club and the outcome has been a 10% non-resident roster for many a year. After WW-II, increased mobility of the nation’s work force has an impact on the club; people’s interests became diversified. Naturally, interests changed during the 55 year life of the club. We used to be curious about individual accomplishment. Now we are fellows of accomplishment read papers they had written about their work. Occasionally a renowned engineer would be brought in to tell about his achievements. It was not unusual for 100 club members to come, listen and take part in discussions.


Of course, in those early days, people didn’t just jump into a car and go, street cars and then buses were common modes of transportation. Many of the things people do now on the 4th Monday evening of the month were not even available prior to the 1950’s. Then, too, it simply was not ordinary practice to eat in a restaurant for the express purpose of eating out. Accordingly, to dine at the YWCA with other members of the club was considered quite a treat. The members really got riled up when it was announced that the price of meals was to be increased from $.50 to $.75!


In recent years the club has continued in its aim to be of service to its community. For instance, over a four or five year period, Charles Fowler lead a delegation of members that helped formulate Lincoln-Lancaster County’s goals and policies. Harvey Stolzman headed a two-man delegation in 1977, which helped the mayor make an informed decision on future disposal of solid waste.


By remaining solvent, the club continued its effort to encourage members in accomplishment. Almost every year someone was found worthy of the Distinguished Member Award. Since 1956, twenty-two names have been engraved on the traveling plaque.


The club was also fortunate in having its first woman, Georda (Schlitt) Williard, join the ranks in 1963. Since then, a number of women with engineering backgrounds and qualifications have become members.


The reins of the Engineer’s Club of Lincoln are now in the hands of third generation people. Yet the club’s original constitution has stood the test of time. Though some of its laws have changed with the times, its objectives still stand firm.