50 Years of Growth and Change

50 years and Counting….A Conversation with WIT Dean Frederick Driscoll

If you spend 50 years in one place, you’re bound to see significant changes to the landscape.

Wentworth Institute of Technology’s Frederick Driscoll, now Dean of the College of Engineering and Technology, has seen quite a bit of change throughout his 50 years working in the LMA.

“When I got here in 1965, to teach, the neighborhood was very different. Where Northeastern is now was a parking lot. It was a much less dense area. Now, when I meet with prospective students and families, I can explain how much the area has grown and developed. Within 50 square miles of WIT there are 50 colleges. The streets are vibrant – it’s a young person’s town.”

Driscoll came to WIT with the intention to stay two years, and then move on. “When I first came back to Boston (Driscoll grew up in Everett, MA) to teach we were Wentworth Institute, an all-male commuter school. We only offered an associate degree and there was zero diversity. However, shortly after I arrived, plans were put in motion to transition to a co-ed college and offer bachelor degrees. We admitted our first female students in the fall 1972 (5 women) and today our student body is 22% female. That percentage may seem small, but it has made our school a much more diverse polytechnic college. It’s been wonderful to watch women embrace what has typically been a male-dominated field. In fact 52% of our students majoring in biomedical engineering this year are female,” he said.

“A diverse classroom brings more of a well-rounded view of topics and more collaboration. We often hear that products have been designed or health care has been tailored more in line with men than with women. How can systems that are intended for both only be tested with a slant towards one sex? Engineers need to consider who will be using the product and in what capacity. They must consider such things as weight, size and ergonomics."

“I have to add that President Pantic is a wonderful role model for the entire student population and especially the women students. As an electrical engineer herself she certainly understands many of the hurdles that women engineers encounter both personally and professionally.

A few Questions for Dean Driscoll:

  • 1) Favorite part of working in the LMA: “It’s such a bustling area of professionals. Between all the colleges here and the medical institutions there’s such a palpable energy of discovery and innovation. It’s a very inspiring place to work.”
  • 2) Least favorite part of working in the LMA:  “Getting here during a snowstorm!”
  • 3) Best part of your job:  “Unfortunately I don’t teach as much as I used to, I’m very involved in the administration of the college now, but by far my favorite part of being here is working with the students and seeing them achieve their goals.”
  • 4) Most memorable event while working at WIT? “I wouldn’t say just one event, but the opportunity to collaborate with my colleague and mentor Robert Coughlin. He was a faculty member in same department with me, and together we wrote 13 textbooks. That kind of organic collaboration happens all the time here among faculty and students. It’s very much part of our culture. I’d also add that when we went from a commuter school to a residential school, and added graduate programs, they were real game changers for Wentworth as well as starting our Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.”
  • 5) Plans to retire? “I keep thinking I will someday, but I still have so much fun! The students are fantastic, I’m involved in a lot of things, and I’ve never lost interest in teaching.  I still consider myself a young faculty member, and I think my job contributes to that significantly!”

All photos courtesy of Wentworth Institute of Technology