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WPI Honors an Architect of the WPI Plan

Dean Emeritus William Grogan, left, shares a laugh with WPI President Dennis Berkey during the 2008 Presidential Founders dinner.

11/26/2008

Dean Emeritus William Grogan Honored at 2008 Presidential Founders Dinner

In the late 1960s, William R. Grogan ’46 was on the verge of concluding his WPI teaching career and seeking employment elsewhere. The school where he had earned his undergraduate degree and where he had served on the faculty for more than two decades had become a source of great frustration to him. A model of innovation at its founding in 1865, WPI had become just another conventional, rigid engineering school.

A call from WPI President Harry Storke changed everything. Storke offered Grogan a rare opportunity—to help redefine a WPI education and build a brand new approach to technological higher education from the ground up. He appointed Grogan to a study committee that began the process of loosening up the curriculum; later, Grogan joined a seven-member faculty planning committee that, after months of study, discussion, and engagement of the community, threw out the old, staid program and built a new, project-based approach to learning that was decades ahead of its time.

Appointed the university’s first dean of undergraduate studies by Storke’s successor, George Hazzard, Grogan found himself in charge of the gargantuan task of implementing the WPI Plan, as the program was called, and keeping it going despite constant challenges and threats. In large part due to Grogan’s devotion, passion, and constant vigilance, the Plan remains a much-admired and respected model of educational innovation.

On November 20, 2008, Grogan was honored at the annual dinner of the WPI Presidential Founders, the society made up of men and women whose lifetime giving to the university equals or exceeds John Boynton’s founding gift of $100,000. Grogan was recognized for his lifetime of service to his alma mater and for his own generosity, which has won him membership in the Presidential Founders. It was the latest of a long list of major honors WPI has bestowed on one of its most beloved and revered graduates.

  • Watch a video prepared for the Presidential Founders dinner that chronicles Bill Grogan’s career.
  • Read an essay about Grogan written for the Founders dinner program booklet.
  • Read a two-part series published in the WPI Journal that recounts the extraordinary drama of the birth of the WPI Plan and the enormous task of transforming the bold experiment into a working educational program
  • Read an essay Grogan wrote for Transformations that looks back on the Plan’s first 35 years.
  • Read the citations for the honorary doctorate and Presidential Medal presented to Grogan by his alma mater.