Skip to content
  • Print

History and Traditions

University of the Pacific is rich in history and traditions beginning with its founding in 1851 as the first chartered institution of higher learning in California. The School of Engineering and Computer Science has its own traditions that students, alumni, and faculty alike can look forward to every year.

School Traditions

  • Cardboard Regatta  The Cardboard Regatta Competition takes place every fall at the University of the Pacific Chris Kjeldsen pool. Students enrolled in the Engineering Dean's Seminar race attempt to complete an obstacle course in boats created out of cardboard and duct tape with a large crowd of faculty and students cheering on.
  • Order of the Engineer  Every February, seniors are inducted into the Order of the Engineer after they accept the Obligation of an Engineer and commit to "upholding devotion to the standards and dignity of the engineering profession." Every person who accepts the Obligation of the Engineer is given a stainless steel ring to wear on the fifth finger of their working hand. This gift from the University is a symbol of his or her commitment to professionalism and ethical practice.
  • Senior Project Day  Each April on Senior Project Day, graduating students present and display their capstone engineering project. On this day, industry volunteers judge while faculty and students view the work of graduating seniors who have worked with industry to plan and execute a design project over the course of a semester.
  • The Rock  The Rock found its way onto Pacific's campus one St. Patrick's Day in the 1960s. The boulder positioned in front of Khoury Hall was placed there by engineering students Marc Goto '61 and Fawzi Al-Saleh '62 eventually grew to be a landmark and source of entertainment to Pacific. Campus organizations, clubs, sports teams, and students who paint the rock in the middle of the night contribute to its layers of history and constantly changing appearance.


Engineering instruction at the University of the Pacific began in 1924 as a concentration within the College of the Pacific. It soon produced many truly outstanding graduates known internationally for their professional contributions. This tradition has continued with many exceptional graduates every year.

In 1957, the engineering program moved from the College of the Pacific. Under the leadership of Dean Diefendorf, it became the University's School of Engineering offering a Bachelor of Science degree in civil and electrical engineering.

In 1962, Henderson McGee, a graduate of 1927 and classmate of Ted Baun, was appointed Dean serving through 1968. Prior to coming to Pacific, Henderson's professional career was with the Corps of Engineers where he was the lead engineer of many projects. He also was very active in the American Society of Civil Engineers serving as Director for the west coast Zone IV.

During the period when the school was establishing itself in the Central Valley, Professor of Civil Engineering, Gordon "Vern" Harrison played several key roles. Vern came to Pacific to develop the civil engineering program and is remembered by his students as a "tough but gentle" teacher. He served as Interim Dean during the academic year 1968-69 and led the search for a new dean.

In the fall of 1969, Robert L. Heyborne PhD, Professor of Electrical Engineering at Utah State University, was selected Dean of Engineering. Under Bob's leadership the civil and electrical engineering programs were accredited in the Fall of 1971 by the Engineering Council of Professional Development (ECPD), now called the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). That same year the school adopted mandatory cooperative education as a requirement for graduation.  Pacific is the only school west of the Mississippi River to have a mandatory co-op program. The chair of the accreditation team in 1994 coined the term co-op program, "the crown jewel of the curriculum."

The school has not only maintained its accreditation in civil and electrical engineering but has subsequently received accreditation in its computer and mechanical engineering programs, the engineering management program, and the engineering physics program.

Upon Dean Heyborne's retirement, Associate Dean Robert Hamernick served as Interim Dean for the academic year 1990-1991.

Ashland O. Brown PhD, Dean and Professor Mechanical Technology at South Carolina State University was selected (Fall 1991) to be the sixth Dean. Under Dean Brown's leadership the school formed an Industrial Advisory Council of corporate executives and alumni to advise the faculty, saw the expansion of the Pacific MESA Center, and developed articulation agreements with over 48 community colleges in California.

Dr. Richard Turpin, Chair Electrical and Computer Engineering, served as interim Dean from 1998 - 2000.

Dr. Ravi Jain was appointed Dean in 2000. Dean Jain came to Pacific from the University of Cincinnati where he had been Associate Dean for Research and International Engineering and Executive Director of Interdisciplinary Research Centers, and Director of the Environmental Engineering Management Graduate Program. He has held faculty and research positions at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has been a Littauer Fellow at Harvard and Fellow Cambridge University England.