Joseph Adams, 1975
Designer and Builder of Iconic Projects Globally
Adams retired in 2016 as president of Energy and Industry for MWH Global, a 7,000-person engineering and construction company, after a 38-year career. He worked in more than 30 countries in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia on projects including water, wastewater, mining, environmental cleanup, and hydropower. His last assignment was chairman of the MWH lead design consortium for the $5 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, known as the Third Set of Locks Project. He also served as president of Engineers Without Borders USA.
Robert H. Beckett, 1957, 2013 (Hon.)
Entrepreneur, Visionary, and Philanthropist
Beckett’s vision and creativity have influenced many industrial processes. His invention of an analog and digital gravimetic feeder for dry granular materials revolutionized the ability to more precisely meter and blend solid materials for product formulations. He was also instrumental in a method to certify the carbon content of gray iron. With his company, Robec, he successfully introduced, distributed, and applied the first microcomputers to industry. These achievements demonstrated his skill in solving process problems and growing businesses. He is also known for his support of educational scholarships.
Harold Black, 1921, 1955 (Hon.)*
Inventor of the Negative Feedback Amplifier
As a young engineer at Bell Laboratories, Black invented the negative feedback amplifier in 1927 and greatly advanced telecommunications technology. More broadly, he invented the principle of negative feedback, among the most important ideas in electrical engineering during the 20th century and a concept that has found applications in fields as diverse as control engineering and psychology. During a nearly 40-year career at Bell Labs, he continued to innovate, earning 63 U.S. and 278 foreign patents. His discovery of negative feedback brought him an almost endless series of awards and honors.
George Cowan, 1941, 2002 (Hon.)*
Pioneer in Nuclear Chemistry and Transdisciplinary Research
Cowan is widely known as a central figure in the founding of the Santa Fe Institute (SFI), which has brought together some of the world’s most influential scientific thinkers to explore the frontiers of complex systems science. During an illustrious nearly 40-year career at Los Alamos National Laboratory, he helped confirm the Soviet Union’s entry into the nuclear age and was a key participant in the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb during World War II. Among his many honors, he received the Enrico Fermi Award and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Medal.
Howard Freeman, 1940, 1996 (Hon.)*
Inventor of the Waterfog Nozzle
Freeman is best known as the inventor of the waterfog nozzle. This critical development during World War II made it possible to fight oil fires on ships with a mist of seawater. His invention is credited with saving dozens of ships and thousands of lives. To fight the gasoline fires caused by kamikaze aircraft crashing into aircraft carriers, he invented a nozzle that created a fog of firefighting foam—a technology that later became standard equipment used to fight aircraft fires at airports, saving many more lives. Freeman eventually founded the Jamesbury Company in Worcester, where he developed many more nozzle and valve technology innovations and earned many patents.
Scott Harris, 1982
Computer-Aided Design Visionary and Thought Leader
As co-founder of both SolidWorks Corporation and Onshape Inc., Harris has helped provide millions of engineers and designers with the world’s most intuitive and innovative design tools. Through thoughtful consideration of engineering workflow and careful crafting of the user experience, Harris’s products have become the mainstay for thousands of schools and companies worldwide with unsurpassed ability for engineers to collaborate, articulate, test, and manufacture complex mechanical designs. He is deeply committed to advancing the state-of-the-art for CAD, teaching engineering and entrepreneurship, mentoring technology startups, solving problems of consequence, and advocating for social action.
First Superintendent of Washburn Shops
Higgins was among the Worcester industrialists involved in the founding and shaping of the new school that became WPI. As first superintendent of the Washburn Shops, he hired experienced tradesmen to teach students the art of manufacturing, ultimately providing a skilled and knowledgeable workforce to Worcester’s emerging industrial center. With his lifelong friend and business associate, WPI Professor George Alden, he established and led Norton Company and designed and built the first hydraulic elevator. A civic and business leader, he is considered the father of the trade school program and was founder of the Worcester Boys Trade School.
Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson, 1989, 2000
Leader, Educator, Author
Jackson paves the way for women and underrepresented people of color in everything she does. She was the first or among the first African American graduate students in her graduate programs, and among few in industry during her career in engineering. She is the first African American woman trustee of WPI. And she served as the first director of lifelong learning at Yale Divinity School, a position she came to after years of demonstrated leadership in the American Baptist Churches USA. She is a sought-after keynote speaker, consultant, preacher, and author.
Charles O. Thompson, Founder*
First Principal of the Institute; Visionary in Scientific Education
Thompson was a 31-year-old high school administrator and civil engineer when the Board of Trustees elected him to lead the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science as its first principal (or president) and a professor of chemistry. He studied European colleges and universities extensively in the months leading up to the Institute’s opening, in preparation for realizing the mission of this pathbreaking new school. He led the Institute from 1868 to 1882, emerging as an educational visionary for his work designing a curriculum that coupled practice in the Washburn Shops with classroom instruction.
Emory Washburn, Founder*
Twenty-third Governor of Massachusetts and Civic Leader
As governor of Massachusetts, Emory Washburn promoted the establishment of the Institute at the state level, helped secure its charter, and petitioned for $50,000 in support of its founding. Like his fellow founders, he was concerned with educating a forward-thinking workforce for Worcester County and recognized the Institute’s capacity to advance industry, individuals, and the community for generations. After one term as governor, he returned to the legal profession, and was known for establishing one of the largest and most successful law practices in Worcester County.