Alumni Who've Made a Difference - Robert N. Clark

I entered the College of Engineering as a freshman in the autumn of 1946. The University's enrollment that year reached a record 20,000 students, more than half of whom were returning veterans of World War II. There were four times as many men students as women, reflecting the priority given returning veterans for admission, and creating a unique social environment. The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill of Rights, permitted the veterans to apply themselves to fuU time studies. My living allotment from the GI Bill was $65 per month, exactly equal to my room and board bill in the West Quad. The ban on student owned automobiles in Ann Arbor was an advantage socially to students of modest means. As a large residential university in a small town Michigan had a well-developed social climate for the students. Dances were held at both the Michigan Union and the Michigan League on Friday and Saturday nights. Various student groups sponsored annual formal dances-the engineering students put on the Slide Rule Ball each year. I worked for two years on the Michigan Technic, a magazine we put out several times a year that carried advertisements from national corporations, technical articles by graduate students and faculty members, a humor page, and a crossword puzzle.

Football tickets came with the tuition, making student attendance at the games almost unanimous. The stadium held 86,000 and was normally completely filled. This gave the impression to the general public that Michigan students were wild about football, whereas many of us attended the games as a social function or simply as a break from studies. Many of the football players at the Big Ten schools were in their mid-twenties and had played football with army or navy teams during the war. From November 1946 until the Army game in October 1949 Michigan had a 25 game winning streak. During my five years at Michigan the team had a record of 37 wins, 7 losses, 2 ties, and 2 Rose Bowl wins. My wife and I attended the infamous Ohio State game in November 1950, played in a raging snow blizzard in Columbus. Alexander G. Ruthven was President of the university and was often seen on the campus, walking to or from the President's house. Alice Lloyd was the Dean of Women. That both of these people were highly regarded in the Michigan community is evident from the present names of campus buildings.

Freshmen engineering students attended a lecture each Wednesday. In 1946 Professor A.D. Moore delivered these lectures which were always on an interesting topic related, sometimes obliquely, to scholarship. Later, the EE students had the unforgettable experience of Professor Moore's approach to applied field theory in his senior level course that was required for graduation. Most EE students took their AC circuits courses from Professor Cannon. He was known among us as "Uncle Joe", but we addressed him that way only after we had graduated. Professors oriented towards applied mathematics taught the engineering math courses. Outstanding among these was George Hay. He was very formal, presenting his lectures in a highly organized fashion. I remember him as being among the two or three best teachers I ever had. He made integral calculus eminently understandable. Professor Hay later became chairman of the Math Department. For computing we each had a slide rule, a book of math tables, graph paper, and simple drafting tools, and we solved many problems graphically.

Although it may not have been clear to most students at the time, the EE faculty was alert to rapidly developing technologies and was making changes to update the curriculum. I recall talking with a graduate student who was working on a DC amplifier! Within a short time these operational amplifiers were the principal components in analog computers. After I had been in industry a few years I appreciated the value of those efforts by the faculty, especially in the automatic control and network synthesis courses introduced in the late 1940s. At that time the North Campus did not exist and East University Street ran between the West Engineering B,uilding and the East Engineering Building-now called East Hall and West Hall. An old building just north of the East Engineering Building, across the street from Randall Lab, housed the Engineering English Department.