Brief History of FERS

(Reproduced from the Proceedings of the Fritz Engineering Research Society 50th Anniversary Conference, held at Lehigh University, July 31 - August 2 1985)

FERS, the Fritz Engineering Research Society, was organized in the fall of 1935 by then current and past researchers at Fritz Lab.

The first meeting was held on October 26, 1935 at Baker Field, New York City, following the Columbia-Michigan football game. A charter was adopted during other activities of the day held at Columbia's materials testing laboratory, a restaurant, and a theater.

Membership was specified to consist of "the Fritz Engineering Staff, Research Fellows who conduct their work at the Fritz Engineering Laboratory, both before and after graduation, and others who by their active interest in the work of the Fritz Engineering Laboratory may be elected."

The purpose of the Society was to promote cooperation, fellowship, and interchange of ideas among the entire membership. Specific activities included meetings, an annual directory of membership and a pledge to distribute to the members available reprints of individually published articles of general technical interest. These activities supplemented an already ongoing series of regular lectures.

At the initial meeting, Bruce Johnston was elected Chairman and Ingvald Madsen, Secretary. Honorary Members elected were Professor Hale Sutherland, Mr. Cares Keyser, and Mr. R. S. "Red" Bunting. The next lecture announced was to be given by Glenn J. Gibson on welded beam-column connections.

Minutes of the early annual meetings describe picnics with hotly-contested softball games, dinners at the Sun Inn and other noted eating places, followed by bowling matches. Notable performances at softball and bowling were reported for Inge Lyse, Bruce Johnston, Carl Kreidler, Hank Godfrey, Dick Cunningham, and Cyril Jensen. Following the game at the 1938 picnic, the staff team took possession of a "newly-constructed trophy which has a peculiar resemblance to the boat which each fall carries the new Research Fellows thru the laboratory canal."

At the spring picnic in 1938 a design was approved for a Society emblem in the form of a key. The first key to be struck in solid gold was presented to Professor Lyse on the occasion of his return to Norway in August 1938.

Annual banquets and spring picnics were held through the summer of 1941 after which there was a gap in Society activities until 1946 due to World War II. In June 1946, Bruce Johnston's letter to the members pro-vided invitations to a picnic and initiation and passed on information about the goings on at Fritz Laboratory during the war years. A stamp auction held at annual picnics became the main source of expense funds for the Society.

In 1947 Mr. Lynn Beedle was initiated into the Society along with Miss Adrienne Scotchbrook, Fritz Lab's first woman Research Assistant. Adrienne was promptly elected Secretary and served for two years. At the 1948 banquet a new activity was added in the form of square dancing which continued for a number of years.

Construction of the major addition to the Laboratory in the middle 1950's enabled the conduct of a higher volume of research and thus resulted in the initiation of increasing numbers of researchers into the Society.

In 1964 a change was voted in the charter to establish permanent membership for all who participate in teaching or research at the Laboratory. It was declared that the teaching staff does have an interest in research either while at the Lab or after they leave. In the same year, the official insignia was revised to the form of a tie tac keeping the original Society symbol since key chains were no longer in fashion.

Beginning in the '70's FERS's athletic activities evolved from picnic softball games into organized participation in the active Lehigh intramural competitions in softball, touch football, and basketball, gaining several championships in the graduate division.

Members of the Society can be proud of the bonds of fellowship that have been established and the achievements of our colleagues over the past 50 years. Lasting ties have developed that are experienced in educational and engineering centers throughout the world. Traveling FERS members have been made to feel at home by fellow members and on several occasions well-attended gatherings of FERS members have been held at foreign sites. FERS members continue to take a leading part in engineering programs of local, national, and international organizations.

We celebrate the traditions of the past and look forward to the next 50 years of FERS achievement.