For the past 50 years, the Civil Engineer's Club of Charleston has provided an avenue for professional growth, education, and public service for the local professional civil engineers. The following is more than just a history, it is the beginning of many more accomplishments to come.
The Charleston Civil Engineers Club was one of the first engineering groups organized in the lowcountry which has maintained an active and consistent presence over the past 50 years. There are still, among the membership, many of those few members who first organized this club out of a desire to form a local branch of the South Carolina Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The history of this Club started at The Citadel in 1954. At that time, Captain L.K. Himelright was the Faculty Adviser to the Citadel Student Chapter of ASCE. The young men of the student chapter met about twice a month to hear talks from practicing engineers, took field trips to engineering projects and wished to develop professional contacts with practicing engineers. This latter activity proved difficult and for many years, it was not possible to obtain the services of a local engineer to serve as a contact member for this group. Eventually, this changed and the Chapter was fortunate to obtain the services of M.B. Hunder and W.K. Johnson as contact members. Yet, there was still no local group of practical civil engineers to aid these young men in giving programs and to give professional contact to them. It was felt that it might be possible to organize a local branch of the S.C. Section of the ASCE to assist with the professional education of these young men. This work with young engineers was the major idea behind the formation of the group and is still one of the major functions. So, in August, 1954, a committee headed by M.B. Hunder was appointed by the S.C. Section of the ASCE to study the possibility of organizing such a branch.
In order to organize a branch of ASCE, it was thought necessary to have in the vicinity enough current and potential members of ASCE who would be interested in organizing and supporting the branch. It was soon found that the number of local ASCE members was relatively small and that, even if a branch could be organized, the attendance at meetings would probably be so small as to discourage its continuation. It was then decided to hold a meeting in the Library in LeTellier Hall at the Citadel between local ASCE members and other interested civil engineers to see if some plans could be formulated. This meeting was held January 6, 1955, and the eighteen engineers who attended this meeting might be called the founders of this club. It was apparent that it would not be feasible to attempt to form an ASCE Branch. There were not enough interested local members, and the relatively high national membership dues appeared to discourage many from joining. It was then suggested that a local engineering group be organized, with no official association with any national group and with low membership dues. It was felt that perhaps, at a later time, it might be possible to form a branch from this group. Many of the older engineers present were quite certain that such a local club could not exist and would fail very quickly. They cited cases of other clubs which had been formed in the past and which has passed away within a short time. Yet even these individuals were willing to go along with the younger men in attempting to organize such a club.
A committee headed by Ken Johnson was appointed to plan a dinner meeting to be held on February 3, 1955, at Henry's Restaurant, and to invite all interested civil engineers to see if they would support such a club. There were present 49 engineers who agreed that such a local club would be the most satisfactory organization at this time. A committee headed by F. H. McDonald was then appointed to prepare a constitution and formulate other details for an organizational meeting. The organizational meeting was held at the Shrimp Ahoy Restaurant on lower King Street on March 3, 1955, with 46 prospective members present. Mr. McDonald gave a brief report in which he told of the origin and objectives of the Civil Engineers Club, and gave credit to those who had originated the idea. Membership dues were set at $2.00 per year with an initiation fee of $1.00. Colonel L.S. LeTellier was elected the first President. Other officers elected were Fred H. McDonald Vice President, and M. B. Hunder Secretary-Treasurer. W. K. Johnson was appointed Program Chairman and Captain Himelright, Membership Chairman. These members, together with Colonel C.C. Zeigler and E.G. Dotterer, constituted the first Executive Committee.
The growth of the Club was phenomenal. By November 7, 1955, there were 119 members and associate members. Meetings were held on the first Thursday of each month with the exception of summer months. Committees were appointed to study various engineering problems in the Charleston vicinity and make reports on these studies. Architects' Night was held once a year at which architects were guests. The practice of entertaining the ladies at Ladies Night was started. Also since 1957, the members of The Citadel Students Chapter of ASCE have been guests once each year with the students presenting the program.
Officers elected in succeeding years are listed elsewhere in this directory. The growth of the club continued with there being nearly 150 members at the end of 1957. The first scholarship fund to aid a deserving young civil engineering student was started in 1957 with Mr. Gerald Hiers being the first recipient. Also, a program was started to send club speakers to high schools to speak about the engineering profession. The club began to take an active part in the plans for Engineers' Week, climaxed by the Engineers' Dinner. In later years, a program was started to sponsor refresher courses to encourage registration as professional engineers. Many of these activities remain today, while others have been dropped.
Through the years, the fundamental objectives as originally planned have been continued. The monthly meetings, accompanied by a Social Hour Sponsor by some worthy professional organization, have given members the opportunity to have fellowship with other engineers and also to hear worthwhile professional speakers. Some members, who desired to gain even more advantage from the meetings, organized a non-official Sub Section which met after the regular meetings for the continuation of technical discussions. One of the most prominent of this group was Mr. Henry Rudolph, President of the Jacksonville, Florida Branch, who had been a member for years and had an excellent attendance record. Meetings have been held at many places such as Shrimp Ahoy, Henry's, Coburg Dairy, St. John's Hotel, Fort Sumter Hotel, The Colony House, The Sheraton Airport Inn, the Quality Inn, Downtown Charleston, the Citadel Alumni House and now at the Citadel Alumni Center. On the whole attendance over the years has averaged 50-60 each meeting which is remarkable for a 50-year period.
Recently, the Club took to beginning each year with an annual golf outing in November. Additionally, in February the Club hosts its annual oyster roast.
In 1998, extensive revisions to the Club's constitution and by-laws were made. Over the past several years, the Club has made active efforts to develop interest in the Club with both the younger engineers practicing in the area as well as with former members. It appears that both of these goals are being realized as the Club's active membership has steadily risen over the past couple of years.
It is believed that the Civil Engineers Club is one of if not the most active professional group in the vicinity. All current and former members can easily look back with pride on the accomplishments of the past years as well as look forward to the future with faith that the Club will continue to encourage the professional growth of its members.
Special thanks to Mr. Todd R. Martin for his research into the history of the Club, and to his continuing support for the Club.
Philip D. Strope, 2005 (updated 2022)