Elmer Charles Easton first graduated from Lehigh in 1931 with a B.S. in electrical engineering. He continued his studies at the university and received his masters' in the same discipline in 1933. Later, in 1965, Lehigh acknowledged his work in engineering with an honorary doctorate. Born and raised in New Jersey, Easton had hopes to become a physician until a Sunday school teacher took him on a field trip to Rutgers University. When he was in high school, his teacher, who was a student in electrical engineering at Rutgers, used to bring homemade wireless sets to class. When Easton visited his teacher's lab at Rutgers in 1923, he changed his mind and decided to pursue electrical engineering instead of medicine.
Easton also studied at Harvard where he received a doctorate in 1942. He eventually became the assistant dean of the faculty of the Graduate School of Engineering at Harvard until he was recruited for the dean position at Rutgers.
Becoming only the fourth dean of engineering college at Rutgers since its inception in 1914, Easton served in this capacity from July 1, 1948-1974. Easton became dean at a time when the college was transitioning into a new location and moving in a new direction. In 1949, the mechanical engineering laboratories moved to the campus known as University Heights. Due to lack of prior funding for the project, engineering students (with supervision) built a temporary lab made of prefabricated barracks. Over the next few years, the entire college was moved from the lower east mall to the "The Heights." Easton oversaw the building of the A,B,C,and D wings of the new engineering building. At about the same time, the college began offering graduate degrees at both the master's and Ph.D. levels.
In 1960, more engineering buildings and labs were constructed on what is now the Busch Campus (formerly the University Heights Campus). During his tenure, Easton also promoted the combination of engineering and the arts. He established the "Creative Engineering" course which uses music, art, and literature to get engineering students to think in new, less technical ways. At one point, he was also the chairman of the Bureau of Engineering Research at Rutgers. During his tenure, the engineering college experienced a large period of growth in students and facilities.
In 2008, to mark the 60th anniversary of his appointment as Dean of the College of Engineering, Easton was awarded the Rutgers Presidential Citation honoring him for distinguished service to the university. He was also the recipient the Rutgers Distinguished Engineer Award in 1964. During his 2008 recipient speech, Easton had these three pieces of advice for other teachers: 1.) Always have a wide smile on your face when you meet your class. 2.) If a student asks a silly question, make the student think it is the most important question you ever heard. 3.) Always wear a tie and a jacket when you go to class.
Easton is a member of a number of technical societies and has received awards from many of them. He was elected a Life Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1967 for his contributions to engineering education. He became an honorary member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)in 1973 and was made a Fellow in 1983. ASEE presented him with a Centennial Medallion in 1993. Easton is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also an active member of the Rotary Club of New Brunswick and was named the Paul Harris Fellow (in honor of the organization's founder) in 1986 and 2000 for service to the Rotary and to the community.
Easton resides in Piscataway, New Jersey.