The connection between Rensselaer and the United States Navy has been well established since the earliest days of the Institute. Through the years, many Rensselaer alumni have gone on to become top servicemen who made major contributions in both military and civilian life.
Mordecai T. Endicott, Class of 1868, began a tradition of Institute graduates who became leaders of civil engineering in the Navy. Known as the Father of the Civil Engineer Corps of the United States Navy, Endicott was the first to head that Navy unit. Later, he would become the first engineer to be named chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks.
Endicott, a 1999 Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame inductee, was commissioned as a civil engineer in the U.S. Navy in 1874. By 1890, he was posted to Washington, D.C., and given control of all civil engineering projects.
During this period, the Navy yards were undergoing extensive modernization and Endicott introduced electronic appliances, and steel and concrete dry docks. He designed the Dewey, which was at the time the worlds largest floating dry dock. The 16,000-ton vessel, stationed in Subic Bay in the Philippine Islands, handled ships up to 20,000 tons, including the largest American ships at that time.
In 1898, shortly before the Spanish-American War, President William McKinley appointed Endicott chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, making him the first individual to be named both chief of the Civil Engineer Corps and chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks. Later, Endicott was given the rank of rear admiral, the first of more than 50 Rensselaer graduates to attain the rank of admiral.
In 1895, Endicott served as a member of the Nicaragua Canal Commission. The commissions report led Congress to delay taking action on furthering the Nicaragua Canal project, which was eventually abandoned in favor of the Panama Canal route. In 1905, Endicott was appointed a member of the Panama Canal Commission.
Endicott retired in 1909, but then returned to work at age 73 to serve in World War I as president of the Naval Examining Boards and Special Boards of Investigation. In 1920, he permanently retired and received a letter of commendation for his war services from the secretary of the Navy.
|Rensselaer Magazine: June 2002|
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