Wearing rings made from the steel of the failed Quebec Bridge, 56 University of Maryland engineering seniors recently put the figurative cherry on top of their academic career: taking the Oath of Obligation and joining the Order of the Engineer.
The tragic collapse of the Quebec Bridge in the early 1990s is what influenced the Canadian ceremony, the Ritual Calling of an Engineer. Engineers designed the bridge to be the longest-spanning bridge in the world. But preliminary calculations were not checked in the final design, and key structural members appeared distorted. Concerns raised among the local engineers went unaddressed, and by the time the project was agreed to be halted, the bridge had collapsed, killing 75 workers and injuring 11 more.
The Order of the Engineer ceremony draws inspiration from its Canadian cousin, which sought to improve the image of the engineering profession. It mirrors the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors after graduating medical school. By taking the Oath of Obligation, these students have made a commitment to integrity and responsibility in the engineering profession. They have additionally made a commitment to putting ethics over ego in situations they may find themselves in, like that of the Quebec Bridge. The steel ring they now wear serves as a visible symbol and reminder of the oath they took.
The Clark School invited students, their families, and alumni to celebrate the step these students would take on April 4, 2017, from training to experience. Among the seniors that took the oath, more than half were women. William Fourney, associate dean of the Clark School, and Norman Wereley, chair of aerospace engineering, led the ceremony: reading the oath, inducting the students, and presenting them with their ring, certificate, and pocket guide. Keynote speaker Kerry Wisnosky (B.S. '86, aerospace engineering) spoke on what was important in his company, Millennium Engineering and Integration Company: integrity, customer relationships, communication, vision, sound decision making, and continuous improvement—values that members in the Order should find themselves living by.
Jonathan Jones (M.S. '18, systems engineering), president of the Engineering Student Council and 2017 inductee, felt connected to his classmates also inducted by the common bond of public service. "To me, this ceremony meant recognizing the service that engineers have provided to humanity and the service that they must continue to ensure quality of life," Jones said.
With graduation coming up, this ceremony marks a rite of passage for these young engineers before they become Maryland alumni. Jones said the Order of the Engineer reminded him that all the hard work he’s done as an undergraduate is, and always will be worth it.