Dr. Homer T. Fuller

Dr. Homer T. Fuller, WPI's second president, and how campus looked during his administration. The president's house is in the foreground.

When WPI Welcomed a New President for the First Time

At a little after 2:30 p.m. on June 28, 1883, Dr. Homer T. Fuller stepped to the podium to publicly address the entire Free Institute of Industrial Science community for the first time. A Dartmouth graduate, the 43-year-old had most recently been the principal of St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont before being selected as WPI’s second president, succeeding Charles O. Thompson, who had departed for Rose Polytechnic Institute in Terre Haute, Ind.

In his more than 10 years at St. Johnsbury, Fuller earned high praise for his integrity and diligence, evidenced by his overseeing a 500 percent enrollment increase. After securing an annual salary of $4,000 plus housing, Fuller embarked on a five-month tour of Europe to study technical education before moving to Worcester.

Washburn Shops in 1890

In his inaugural address, “Present Place and Work of Technical Schools,” Fuller challenged the Institute to solve the pressing issues of an increasingly industrial world. He mentioned providing cleaner rivers, economizing fuel, arresting the corrosive nature of salt water, and even controlling malaria as among the technical problems that required “more room, appliances, and instruction.”

Fuller addressed the school for the final time during the 1894 commencement ceremony. He reflected on the many changes under his tenure, including the official name change to Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the installation of the hydraulic laboratory, the creation of a four-year course of study, and the partnership with the city to improve sewage treatment and water quality.

As WPI is set to welcome a new president nearly 140 years after its first change of leadership, we can take heart knowing the Institute will continue to use its innovative educational model of theory and practice to continue to solve the many challenges facing the world today.

Grace Wang Named 17th President of WPI Grace Wang, the 17th president of WPI

Grace Wang Named 17th President of WPI

Grace Jinliu Wang, PhD, a materials scientist and highly accomplished and collaborative leader in higher education, government, and industry, will join the university on April 3, 2023.

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