Dean's Corner, November 1927


O. J. Ferguson

Most young people shun the implication of being idealists as they would the charge of being sanctimo-nious: as they would the brand of impracticality; as they would poison. In fact, idealism is frequently confounded with hazy illusions, rainbow dreams, castles-in Spain. Not infrequently it is confused with religious principles.  It is felt that ideals must be another name only for one's standards of religion.

No one is comfortable under the characterization of the term "idealist". He would much rather be dubbed hard-headed and practical than held up as a man of visions. The average youth is so scared of the smell of sanctity that he would rather be called irreligious than religious.

But the word "idealism" is no more limited to religion than is the word' "food" limited to bread and butter. It is no more an implication of instability and lack of poise and judgment than is the word "honesty" a charge of impracticality. A man with visions is not necessarily visionary.

Our idealism is that which guides us in every worthy step we take; This may' be in religion, or in the day's work: in our studies, in our friendships, in our thoughts, in our plans for tomorrow. It may de-termine our recreations—and the color of our neck-ties! It may choose for us our life's occupation.

Our idealism is high or low, as our standards are high or low. And herein lies the thought I would bring to my engineering readers.

The profession of engineering will be a dignified one or a base one, depending upon the ideals which we engineers hold. If our work occupies a lofty place in our minds, if we put its perfection above our comfort, our gain, our advancement: if we place our client's claim upon us above all other demands upon our time and abilities: if we are zealous to advance our pro-fessional knowledge, practice and standards; if we are never satisfied to stop growing in our profession, then, and only then, can we be said to possess the truly professional spirit. Then. and only then, can we ex-pect other people to recognize the meaning of profes-sional engineering in contrast with the work of the artisan.

Engineering is a progressive profession.  It is a constructive force in civilization.  It is a builder of modern industry, upon which is based the standards of living of today. It is a creator among our arts. It is a civilizing force, an organizer.  It’s primary purposes of making available to mankind the ma-terial resources and the great forces of nature, of directing the application of these forces and the utilization of the resources, of controlling the directing organization—these ends have been achieved to such a degree that engineering is in the forefront of modern progress.  It remains for the profession to substantiate its right to remain there.   This is a question of the idealism of the profession. Is it such that we are fixed in our position?


Pray don't find fault with the man who limps
Or stumbles along the road,
Unless you have worn the shoes he wears
Or struggled beneath his load.
There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt,
Though hidden away from view,
Or the burdens he bears placed on your back,
Might cause you to stumble too.
Don't sneer at the man who's down today,
Unless you have felt the blow
That caused his fall, or felt the same
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, if dealt to you
In the self-same way at the self-same time,
Might cause you to stagger too.
Don't be too harsh with the man who sins
Or pelt him with words or stones,
Unless you are sure, yea, doubly sure,
That you have not sins of your own.
For you know, perhaps, if the tempter's voice,
Should whisper as soft to you
As it did to him when he went astray,
'Twould cause you to falter too.
—Author Unknown.

Worth Reading Bulletin No. 203, issued by the Training Department of the American Rolling Mill Company.
Modern science is the product of systematic meth-odical men who are content to sit quiet in a room and challenge the mysteries of the universe.—WALTER BAGEHOT.

President Coolidge has no telephone on his desk. Whenever it is necessary for him to make or answer a telephone call. he goes into a booth in a small room adjoining his office.