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IMSE 50th anniversary celebration sparks ‘founders’ scholarship endowment

Birthday parties can be full of surprises. Besides serving as a happy reaffirmation of 50 successful years, MU’s Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department (IMSE) anniversary celebration in 2008, also acted as a catalyst for a scholarship endowment that will extend into all of the department’s future anniversary celebrations, but first, a little history.

The Industrial Revolution, which began in England in the mid-18th century, was a springboard to prominence for many engineering disciplines. New technologies mechanized human and animal tasks, and the introduction of the steam engine in 1765 lowered manufacturing costs and expanded markets.

Industrial engineering (IE) eventually grew out of the burgeoning field of mechanical engineering as the need for the design and management of production processes and distribution systems, as well as the need to operate at full potential, expanded.

After working in an Air Force logistics office during World War II, Robert Eastman wanted more out of his professional life than his accounting degree from Antioch College afforded him. Encouraged by his wife, Kathryn, he returned to college and earned master’s and doctorate degrees in the emerging field of industrial engineering and was recruited by MU Engineering in 1955 to start an IE department.

Just six years after graduating from Oklahoma State, Lee Raney co-founded Mizzou’s Industrial Engineering Department in 1958 along with Robert Eastman.

Lee Raney, a 1952 IE graduate from Oklahoma State, was working in Texas for Philips Petroleum. Deciding he’d needed a master’s degree to further his career, he contacted a mentor at his alma mater and soon after received a letter from Eastman inviting him to MU.

Together, the pair launched Mizzou’s Industrial Engineering Department in 1958.

“When Dr. Eastman contacted me, there were only two weeks before the semester started, but I was on that offer like a cat on a mouse,” said Raney. “It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun. We split up the courses and went to work. He took industrial statistics and quality control and operations research. I took engineering economy, industrial management and personnel administration, and manufacturing systems. That first semester, we had a mix of students from all departments.

“Dr. Eastman was such a gracious man,” he added. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Eastman passed away in 1992, but his son, Roger, who was a baby when his parents moved to Columbia, attended the anniversary celebration in his stead.

Raney was reacquainted with his co-founder’s son at the event.

“As a child, he was a bit of a wild one,” Raney recalled, laughing. “I remember Dr. Eastman chasing him down.”

Roger, who attended high school and college at MU, graduated in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in math. He said he remembered how nice the faculty was to him.

“All those big labs — it was geek heaven,” said Roger, who chairs the Department of Computer Science at Loyola College in Maryland. “But what I remember most vividly is my father’s students. He would have them over for dinner, and they would treat him with such respect. He cared more about the students than anything else.”

According to his son, Eastman’s 1974 recognition as the outstanding teacher in the College of Engineering was a great source of personal pride.

IMSE Department Chair Luis Occeña (left) and Roger Eastman, along with Raney and members from all three’s families, came together to establish an endowment for the Robert M. Eastman/Lee C. Raney/Luis G. Occeña Industrial Engineering Endowed Scholarship Fund — nicknamed the Founders’ Scholarship.

IMSE Department Chair Luis Occeña said that alumni who spoke at the department’s anniversary celebration shared warm anecdotes with Roger about his father.

“My dad was wonderful in many ways, but not always in his fashion sense as he got close to retirement. In their evaluations one year, a few students said his ties were so loud they couldn’t concentrate,” Roger said.

In discussions about the IMSE department’s past and its future, it came to light that Raney and his wife, Grace, had made gifts for scholarships in Eastman’s name. And, Roger, his wife, Michelle, and his two sisters, Caroline and Parmelee, had twice made gifts to fund Fulbright scholars in their father’s name.

The Raneys and Eastmans, along with Occeña and his wife, Kathleen, decided to join together and establish an endowed scholarship fund, collectively donating $5,000 each year for five years.

“Founding a department isn’t enough, it takes upkeep, and Lee and I are proud to share the scholarship name with someone who has maintained and enhanced the strength of the department,” said Roger.

Once the Robert M. Eastman/Lee C. Raney/Luis G. Occeña Industrial Engineering Endowed Scholarship Fund — or Founders’ Scholarship, as it has been nicknamed — reaches $25,000, earned interest on the account will be used to award IMSE student scholarships based on academic merit.

According to Occeña, the department has grown from 85 undergraduate students and five faculty members in 2007, to its current size of 140 undergraduates with nine faculty positions. Fully 28 percent of IMSE students are women. The department also has an active graduate research program, and several industrial engineering students are campus leaders.

Mizzou IMSE offers the only ABET-accredited industrial engineering degree program in the state and employment prospects for the discipline are rosy according to the American Society of Engineering Education.

“It’s very rewarding to honor the founders of our department,” Occeña said. “And this scholarship will help us to attract good students.”

If you’d like to join the effort and make a matching gift beyond the $25,000 endowment in honor of MU IMSE’s founders, click here to contribute.