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Chapter One: The Birth of the American Council for Construction Education

Updated: Jun 8, 2023


Introduction Construction as a process has existed for centuries. The management of the construction process has taken on many forms during this time. As the construction process became more technical in terms of the types of materials, tools and equipment being used, the need for more highly skilled craft workers, supervisors, project managers and executive managers resulted.

In the first half of the 20th century, the management of construction projects usually fell to individuals educated as engineers and architects. Many colleges and universities offering civil engineering and architecture degree programs included subject matter in existing courses and/or new courses related specifically to construction. As the entire construction process became more complex and the number of local, state and federal regulations increased, there became a greater need for individuals educated in the management of the construction process.

Very few degree programs in building construction existed prior to World War II....the oldest one being at the University of Florida started in 1935. Other college and university programs were initiated after World War II. The industry, however, looked at these programs as sub- professional relative to established engineering programs. The need for uniquely educated persons in the management of the construction process was recognized by some segments of theindustry and by educators in the early 1950’s.

In 1951, University of Mississippi Professor of Civil Engineering F. H. Kellogg proposed major surgery on the then current civil engineering curriculum to prepare graduates in engineering to be more than technicians in construction. Professor Kellogg suggested that most senior design courses be replaced with specific construction subjects and even courses “for those whom intend to work with people...particularly instruction requiring writing and thinking in words rather than in pictures, numbers and symbols.” (Kellogg, 1951).

The Need to Develop Post-Secondary Construction Education Programs Realizing the changing trends in the construction profession, the Executive Committee of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) on September 13, 1953, approved the motion to establish a special Committee on education. The first charge to the Committee was to determine the type of training the AGC desires to promote. The first meeting of the AGC Construction Education Committee was held September 29, 1954 in St. Louis, MO. The Committee recommended that special construction courses offered by engineering colleges should supplement and not replace the basic civil engineering courses. In other words, the construction subjects should be elective or optional courses. (Jones, 1983)


In 1955, the AGC Construction Education Committee conducted a survey of AGC members for the purpose of determining the future needs of contractors for civil engineers. An analysis of the responses regarding the types of engineering college training preferred by contractors revealed that 45% responding preferred emphasis on general management training and 57% preferred emphasis on planning of construction plant layout and operation. Only 13% preferred emphasis on training in engineering design. In addition, 90% replying indicated that a construction option in civil engineering would encourage the employment of civil engineers. (Jones, 1983)

At the September 27, 1955 meeting of the AGC Construction Education Committee, the results of the survey were reviewed and discussed on how best to disseminate them. The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) indicated interest in receiving the recommendations of AGC regarding engineering training and how it might be improved. The Committee felt that a formal liaison should be established with the ASEE.

Based on the results of the survey and follow-up discussions, W. A. Klinger, contractor and former national President of AGC, proposed a new degree program for construction in 1956. (Klinger, 1956). Klinger recommended a fifth year in addition to a traditional civil engineering program. His recommendations included management courses, technical construction courses, and general business accounting. Klinger, in his article, stated that only one major institution had a degree in construction engineering and that national engineering organizations were just beginning to study the problem of education for construction.

In 1957, the AGC Construction Education Committee endorsed Klinger’s proposal in principal and recommended that AGC’s Executive Committee adopt as its objectives the following: 1. Accept the idea of the four-year course in civil engineering, with construction options as presently provided in many universities, and urge wider acceptance of this type of program in universities and colleges. 2. Encourage those universities and colleges which find it possible to provide construction courses, which might be taken in a fifth year and which, might lead to a master’s degree. During 1957, a joint cooperative Committee was established between AGC and ASEE. The initial work of the special Committee was to more clearly clarify what construction subject matter should be included in civil engineering programs. (Jones, 1983).

In 1958, AGC began to work closely with the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE). ASCE requested the AGC Construction Education Committee to delineate the areas of education desired by the construction industry, leaving the method of transmitting this training to students for development by individual engineering schools. The Committee agreed that a basic engineering curriculum together with courses in construction management was needed to train engineering students for employment in the construction industry. Consideration was also given to a five-year course leading to a degree of Master of Construction Engineering. (Jones, 1983).


In 1961, another survey of contractor members of the AGC concluded that they did, in fact, want an emphasis in construction management, even if advanced structural design and certain other courses had to be omitted. However, this survey concerned itself with civil engineering education only, and while contractors responding to the survey felt that “construction was essentially a management function,” they still preferred an engineering degreed person. (Klinger,1961).

Based on the results of the 1961 survey, the AGC Construction Education Committee approved a statement of AGC Policy on the education of construction engineers which states (Jones, 1983): “The operation of a general contractor’s business requires a broad education in the fields of engineering and business administration. This education should include the engineering studies necessary for a degree of Bachelor of Science in Civil and/or Architectural Engineering from an accredited college, plus selected subjects from the School of Business Administration, integrated into a five year curriculum leading to the additional degree of Master of Construction Engineering. Both degrees, Bachelor of Science of Engineering and Master of Construction Engineering are to be conferred at the end of the five year course.” The Founding of the Associated Schools of Construction

In the early 1960’s, it was noted by many in the construction industry, especially educators, that of the many existent professional and educational societies and associations concerned with building, none provided a place for educational institutions offering construction-related degree programs. With this in mind, faculty from nine universities met in March 1965 at the University of Florida to form the Associated Schools of Construction (ASC). These nine universities were Arizona State, Auburn, Clemson, Colorado State, Florida, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska at Lincoln and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Those in attendance at the meeting reached unanimous agreement on the following points (W.G. Crawford, D. D. Moss, J.W. Young, 1989): 1. Building construction is a legitimate and unique area of study of sufficient professional stature and academic level to justify four-year degree programs at universities. 2. One of the greatest needs of such programs is that of clear identity and recognition by other allied disciplines (such as engineering and architecture), the building construction industry, and student candidates. 3. An association of universities is desirable and necessary to coordinate the aims and goals of building construction education in universities. 15


At the same meeting, the following membership requirements were established (W.G. Crawford, D. D. Moss, J. W. Young, 1989): 1. Educational institution members only. 2. Accredited colleges or universities offering four-year (min.) degree programs having major emphasis on building construction. Only one unit (college, department, etc.) to officially represent each university. 3. “Building construction” to be defined and identified as other than presently recognized allied fields of engineering, architecture, urban planning and other professional disciplines, per se. This does not mean, of course, that specific curricula within such areas that are “building construction” are not eligible.

It should be noted that up to this point in time the only specialty accrediting agencies that indirectly related to construction were for the allied disciplines of engineering and architecture. The second membership requirement above pertained to regional university and college accreditation and not to specific program accreditation.

Finally, the representatives from the nine universities reached unanimous agreement on the following purposes and objectives of ASC (W. G. Crawford, D.D. Moss, J.W. Young, 1989): 1. To establish the objectives and goals for the development of construction education. 2. To assist institutions of higher learning in the establishment and development of these stated objectives, standards, and goals pertaining to construction education within the respective universities. 3. To establish professional recognition (and identity) of the educational programs offered by the collective members of the association. 4. To promote closer cooperation and understanding between construction education and those areas of industry identified in the field. The first elected officers of ASC were as follows: President – B.M. Radcliffe – Michigan State University; Vice President – William L. Favrao – Virginia Polytechnic Institute; Secretary/Treasurer – Edward Shaifer, Jr. – Arizona State University. In addition, the following Committee Chairs were appointed: Constitution, By-Laws and Legal – Edward Shaifer, Jr.; University Liaison for Membership – Loys A. Johnson – University of Florida; Liaison with Industrial/Professional Associations and Societies – Murlin Hodgell – University of Nebraska; Curriculum Study – Frank M. Orr - Auburn University; and Student Qualification Study – Don A. Halperin – University of Florida.


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