Formative years

The School of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan was founded in 1912 when the current administration decided to gather closely related courses under one title. The first courses offered at the School were in Civil Engineering and were taught to six students by C.J. Mackenzie.

Chalmers Jack MacKenzie was appointed the first Dean of the College in 1921. C.J. Mackenzie is well known for designing and building Saskatoon’s unique Broadway Bridge, a project intended to help the unemployed during the depression. He also took a lead role in developing nuclear research in Canada, joining the National Research Council (NRC) in 1939 and becoming its president in 1944. In 1984 the College adopted the Mackenzie dress tartan tie as their own, in honour of C.J. Mackenzie who died that same year. In January, a distinguished alumnus is invited to speak at the C.J. Mackenzie Gala of Engineering Excellence, the College’s annual flagship event honouring the achievements of students, faculty, staff and alumni.

On April 26th, 1916 the first Bachelors of Engineering degrees in Civil Engineering were awarded at the first graduation ceremony to three students - Spencer Ball, George Oliver Thorn and Rueben John Hanley. October 28, 1920 marked the opening of the new engineering building with a dance in the first year drafting room. Now with a formal place of their own, this spirited group of students produced their own chant:

Levels, transits, calculus
Spiral curves and the rhombus
Offsets, tangents, hemispheres
Who are we? The Engineers!

The 1920s saw the formation of an ethical base that set engineers and engineering apart from other professional groups as they developed a set of principles to guide them in their work and service to the community. These principles culminated in the passing of the Professional Engineers Act in 1930.

The Depression and World War Two

Through the Great Depression, engineers persisted in seeking their education. Tuition fees were raised, the Broadway Bridge was constructed, and the College adopted a coat of arms. As well, Chemical Engineering was added to the curriculum in 1931, and Geological and Engineering Physics in 1937.

The 1940s brought about major change due to the Second World War. Because of the demonstrated importance of engineers to the war effort, the College of Engineering became the largest college on campus for the first time. As well, the college saw its first female graduate, and Electrical Engineering was introduced.

Petroleum Engineering was instituted in 1952-53, and Ceramics was removed around that same time. It was also in the fifties that the engineering students were at war with the law students, bringing about such events as the abduction of the Legal Eagle and the Derby Squash Episode.

50th Anniversary

In 1962 the College celebrated its 50th anniversary. Mining Engineering began in 1963, along with Engineering Sciences. Grants for research passed the million-dollar mark, and the college was able to purchase more sophisticated equipment.

In 1972 the Space Engineering Division broke away from the University to become SED Systems, the first such commercial move of its kind. The late 1970s saw the change from a thesis to a design project in most disciplines. The 70s also saw the advancement of the SAE super-mileage vehicles, which would ultimately set world records in fuel efficiency.

By the summer of 1980, the college had a new modern building, being the last campus building constructed using the English system of measurement. A redeveloped curriculum greeted the students of the 1980s and that decade marked the end of the famous “Godiva Ride."

The 1990s saw the rise of the double degree program in engineering due to the ongoing technological advantage gained by the wide-spread implementation of computers. The college's longest serving dean, Peter Nikiforuk, retired in 1997.

New century begins

During the early 2000s, the college saw the establishment of several research and teaching related chairs, including the Jerry G. Huff Chair in Innovative Teaching in 2007. In 2007 the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team took first place in NASA’s 2007 Space Elevator Competition for the third year in a row.

The USask Engineering community celebrated the achievements of the first 100 years at the College of Engineering in September 2012.

In January 2018, the first female dean of the college, Suzanne Kresta, began her term and served until June 2023. 

In fall 2020, the college launched RE-ENGINEERED, its completely revamped first-year program, implementing a broader curriculum and a competency-based assessment (CBA) approach to evaluate students’ grasp of skills and knowledge.  With CBA, students are tested on learning outcomes embedded in course content to ensure mastery before moving on.

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the college's student design groups persevered and continued to excel. In June 2023, the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team, based in the College of Engineering, saw the successful launch of its RADSAT-SK cube satellite to the International Space Station.

 -With files from Thorough: An Illustrated History by R.H. Macdonald

Key dates

1907 – University of Saskatchewan officially created

1909 – Professor A. R. Greig, a mechanical engineer, becomes Superintendent of Buildings and oversees construction of several key buildings on campus

1912 – Agricultural Engineering Building opens its doors to students; engineering classes begin

1922 – A separate College of Engineering is established; C. J. Mackenzie is first dean

1925 – The Engineering Building is gutted by fire; reconstruction takes less than a year; Professor Greig supervises the project

1931-32 – Dean Mackenzie takes a leave of absence from the College to supervise building of Saskatoon’s Broadway Bridge, assisted by recent Engineering grads

1934 – College coat of arms created

1945 –C. J. Mackenzie officially ends term as dean; had started a leave of absence in 1939 to become acting president of the National Research Council.

1946 – Isobel (Izzy) Beatrice Daw (Mechanical) is first woman to graduate from the College

1948 – Official opening of new Engineering wing

1957 – U of S one of first universities in Canada to obtain a computer

1961 – Construction of major addition to Engineering Building, first since the 1940s

1965 – Engineering attracts more than $1 million in research grants for first time

1974 – Master of Engineering program introduced

1976 – Student-run Engineering Show is renamed Spectrum

1982 – New Engineering Building opens

1989 – Engineering students launch Sci-Fi Science Camps

1996 – Peter Nikiforuk, College’s longest-serving dean, retires

2002 – New addition allows Chemical Engineering to move from Thorvaldson Building to Engineering

2004 – Canadian Light Source officially opens

2008 – Ron and Jane Graham Centre for the Study of Communication opens; later becomes School of Professional Development

2012 – College celebrates 100th anniversary

2018 – Suzanne Kresta, first female dean of the college, begins her term

2020 – RE-ENGINEERED, the college's redeveloped first-year program, is launched