ISE 100

A Century of Excellence


Come celebrate with us!

100th Anniversary Celebration Logo

From its roots as an engineering drawing program, ISE dates back to the formation of the University, when Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862.

An "engineering drawing program" may sound oddly specialized today, but before 1900, even before 1980, you were communicating your engineering ideas — schematic, equations, text and all — using a typewriter and hand drawing, whether on a thesis, a poster presentation, or to try to impress an employer.

Thus clear communications became and remains one of the unique cornerstones of the ISE department.

By 1921, the drawing program had become so essential to the emerging engineering curriculum that it was re-established as The Department of General Engineering Drawing. The Department of General Engineering Drawing moved into the Transportation Building, so called because at the time the building also housed Aeronautical Engineering and The Department of Railway Transportation (which has since closed up shop, but subtle architectural railroad motifs can be found throughout the art deco styling on that vintage building).

It was also in 1921 that the Transportation Building's north end was completed. 

And so, 100 years later, in 2021, we declared ISE to be a century old. 2021 was a pandemic year and not a good year for celebrating — remember how "parties" became "superspreaders"? — but we had waited a century to throw this party, so what was a couple more years?


ISE 100th Anniversary Celebration
May 3-4, 2024 | I Hotel and Conference Center, Champaign IL

ISE would like to acknowledge alumni, faculty and friends who have made accomplishments in professional, technical, educational or service fields that distinguish them, the department and the university.

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Since 1921, there have been hundreds of events that have advanced and defined our department, most notably the merger with Industrial Engineering (formerly with the Department of Mechanical Science) to make the department of General Engineering into a fully contemporary ISE department. The Industrial Engineering department was not as old as the General Engineering department ("Drawing" was eventually dropped from the name), but was a world-class department with scientists who are very often cited by our senior alumni. 

A few more of milestone events include the formation of the graduate program, the formation of the Masters Degree in Financial Engineering professional program, changing the name of the General Engineering degree to Systems Engineering and Design, and the founding of an Online Industrial Engineering degree. Take a look at the timeline below to go deep on our evolution.

Contemporary ISE research comprises the study of engineering systems, and the explosive growth of technology in the past century has only allowed our disciplines to grow into bigger, digital, more important, and increasingly global domains. We have roots in manufacturing, but a future in sustainable design, clean energy, health care, yet-unknown technological innovations, and bettering life on earth in every human domain.

Department and Interim Department Heads

Deborah Thurston

Deborah Thurston


Jean Ping

Jong-shi Pang

Rakesh Nagi

Rakesh Nagi

Jeff Shamma

Jeff Shamma

Jerry Dobrovolny's leadership of the General Engineering Department cannot be overstated, and today Department Head Jeff Shamma occupies a Chair funded by the Dobrovolny family. Rakesh Nagi's energetic leadership inspired a period of rapid growth, which continues to this day. Two-time Interim Head Deborah Thurston deserves mention for demonstrating exemplary leadership during two very challenging transitions — the merger and the pandemic. Professor Conry remains as engaged as a former department head can be, and will be attending our party next year — come and say hi.

Under Jeff Shamma, ISE continues to attract more and more students and faculty, as well as quite a few awards. Going forward, Shamma will work with advancement on a major campaign to upgrade facilities within or without the Transportation Building — a great start to our second century!

Party? Oh yeah.

Come join us to celebrate The Century of Excellence Celebration! So many alumni have never been back to campus that we are going to up our event-planning game and make this one a brainy blow-out not to be missed. 

As ISE alumni, you have carried the Illinois torch into a dizzying variety of careers in law, medicine, government, business, education, medicine, and sometimes even engineering. You could not ask for a more interesting crowd to mingle with than yourselves! And you might make a new contact or meet an old flame; who knows? 

What to learn more? Here are documents for those who wish to learn more about our storied history:

Upcoming Centennial Events

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Historical Timeline

Staff moved to DCL; work on facilities begins in earnest

Staff moved to DCL; work on facilities begins in earnest


ISE (and its building) recognize 100th birthday

ISE (and its building) recognize 100th birthday


Jeff Shamma appointed Head and Dobrovolny Chair

Jeff Shamma appointed Head and Dobrovolny Chair


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