Department History

Our department has a proud heritage dating back to the founding of Iowa State Agricultural College (later Iowa State University) as a land grant institution in 1869. We’ve seen extraordinary research and teaching methods since then. Still, we keep a dedication to excellence that has carried from past to present. Here is our history …

Civil engineering
John S. Dodds joined the faculty of Iowa State College in 1917. A civil engineering faculty member, Dodds was instrumental in establishing a surveying camp for students. This summer camp, located in the boundary waters of northern Minnesota, was named Camp Marston after Anson Marston, the first dean of engineering at Iowa State.

In 1869, Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) began offering classes in engineering and liberal arts and sciences. Civil engineering started in 1871 as one of two engineering curricula – the other being mechanical engineering. Classes were first held in Old Main (no longer in existence), the original building on campus. Classes in drawing, railways, sanitation (later environmental engineering), and surveying were first offered in the civil engineering curriculum. In 1872, Iowa State graduated its first class, including three civil engineering graduates. In 1883, civil engineering classes moved to Engineering Hall, the site of today’s Marston Hall.

In 1892, Elmina T. Wilson became the first woman to receive a bachelor of civil engineering degree at Iowa State College. Two years later, she earned a master of science, becoming the first woman to do so at Iowa State College. Soon after, from 1893 to 1904, she served as the first woman faculty member in civil engineering. Wilson collaborated with Professor Anson Marston on a water tower project just west of Engineering Hall in 1895. This became Marston Water Tower, completed in 1897 and the first elevated steel water tower west of the Mississippi River.

Marston Water Tower

The civil engineering program attained department status in 1898. Six years later, the first degree specialization was offered – highways (highways meant some transmissible land route by automobile). In 1924, the first master’s degrees in civil engineering were conferred. The first doctoral degree was conferred in 1927. The civil engineering program was accredited in 1936 by the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD). ECPD is now known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

In 1971, Engineering Building No. 2 was built to accommodate civil engineering and aerospace engineering instruction and research. In 1973, this building was named Town Engineering Building after George R. Town, dean of the College of Engineering from 1949 to 1970. Town Engineering Building exclusively housed civil and construction engineering curricula starting in 1999, when aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics moved to Howe Hall.
The department of civil engineering was changed to the department of civil and construction engineering in 1988. On March 12, 2003, the Iowa Board of Regents approved a new department name – Iowa State University’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering – to reflect environmental emphases in the civil engineering program.

By 2001, several Town Engineering Building labs were renovated or added to the original building, thanks to generous alumni and faculty support. Graduate courses were first offered on-line in 2005 through Engineering Distance Education. In 2012 this service became Engineering-LAS On-line Learning, allowing courses in the College of Engineering and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to be taught on-line. Starting in the early 2000s, ISU CCEE began collaborating with multiple departments on campus to bring interdisciplinary comprehensive curriculum to undergraduate and graduate students. The department currently offers study abroad opportunities in the United Kingdom and Italy to broaden the global opportunities available to engineering students.

Construction engineering
Thomas Jellinger

September 1960 heralded the birth of the Iowa State building construction curriculum. Headed by Thomas Jellinger, the original concept of the curriculum centered on teaching construction engineering based on best industry practices. In 1963, Iowa State graduated its first students in a bachelor of science in engineering education_small

By 1970, the building construction program became the construction engineering program. The program was first implemented in the 1971-73 Iowa State University General Catalog. Two emphases in construction engineering were in place: building and heavy-highway. A mechanical emphasis was added to the construction engineering program in the 1973-75 Iowa State University General Catalog. In fall 1976, the program was accredited by the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development, now called ABET.

Overseen by the department chair, faculty members appoint “professors-in-charge” of the construction engineering program and its associated activities. The construction engineering program at Iowa State has an evolving curriculum. Instructors adapt courses to best suit the contemporary construction industry climate. In 1991, Engineering News Record recognized the program as one of the top construction programs. Furthermore, Gourman Report recognized ISU’s Construction Engineering Program as the top construction engineering program in the country.

Iowa State, the Transportation Research Board and InTrans

Iowa State and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies have been partners since TRB’s inception. In 1920, the federal government appointed Iowa State Engineering Dean and Professor Anson Marston as the Highway Research Board’s (now TRB) first chairman of the Executive Committee. He served a two year term. Professor Marston’s commitment to highway improvement placed Iowa State College at the forefront of national infrastructure innovation.

National highway improvements started in Iowa. Each spring in the 1920s, rains and melted snow caused roadways to become muddy, making it difficult to travel. With overwhelming farmer support, the State of Iowa granted Marston and Iowa State researchers a highway improvement project. Marston proposed a drain pipe, a culvert system that removed water from roads. Marston developed an earth load test, known as Marston load, for buried pipes that drained water from roads, preventing deep mud from forming on highways. Applying this performance specification significantly advanced highway technology.

A few years later, Marston recruited instructor Merlin G. Spangler (BSCE 1919) to solve the Marston load question on flexible pipes, an invention made since Marston developed a rigid pipe system for drainage. Spangler discovered the pipe-soil interaction at the sides of flexible pipes, demonstrating that good soil embedment is the basic structure of a drainage conduit. Marston and Spangler’s work served as inspiration for a larger highway system, and eventually the Interstate Highway System we know today.

In 1983, the Federal Highway Administration established the Local Transportation Information Center at Iowa State University as one of the 10 original Rural Technical Assistance Programs. Given major grant awards and increasingly diverse programs, the center changed its name to the Midwest Transportation Center in 1988, then to the Center for Transportation Research and Education in 1995. Its current name, the Institute for Transportation (commonly known as InTrans), was implemented in 2009.

Department heads/chairs
Anson Marston,
Almon Fuller,
Lowell Stewart,
Carl Ekberg,
Richard Dague,
Lowell Greimann,
James Alleman,
Terry Wipf,
Construction engineering professors-in-charge
Thomas Jellinger,
(taught 1960-1981)
John Russo,
(taught 1972-1982, 1983-1986)
Jerry Chase,
(taught 1977-1996)
James Rowings,
1987-1996, 2001
(taught 1986-2001)


Mark Federle,
(taught 1990-2001)
Edward Jaselskis,
(taught 1989-2011)
Charles Jahren,
2001-2006, 2011-current
(taught 1993-present)
Construction Engineering Hall of Fame
Since 2010, the Iowa State University Construction Engineering Program has annually recognized individuals who have left significant marks on the construction engineering program, the construction industry, and their communities through their consistent service and achievement.

Nominate an honoree

To nominate someone to the Construction Engineering Hall of Fame, please fill out and submit the Construction Engineering Hall of Fame Nomination Form (Word doc) to Denise Wood at 456 Town Engineering Building; Iowa State University; Ames, IA 50011. You may also email the form to Future honorees must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Alumni of the Iowa State construction engineering program
  • Current or former Iowa State construction engineering faculty member
  • Individuals who have contributed to the success of the Iowa State construction engineering program through their service and support

Nominations to the Hall of Fame must be submitted by Sep. 1 of each year for induction the following spring. Nominations will be accepted from alumni of the Iowa State construction engineering program or current or present Iowa State construction engineering faculty.

So far, we are proud to have recognized the following individuals:

Dave Pepper (BSConE’85) – Pepper is chairman of Pepper Construction Group. He has ensured his company’s commitment to the ISU ConE program through the giving of generous financial aid and the hiring of ISU students and alumni. In addition, he has served as a member of the ISU ConE Industry Advisory Council.
chase_jerry1bw_for hall of fame web Jerry Chase (PhDCE’83) – associate professor emeritus of construction engineering at Iowa State University; significant contributor of construction quality management, both in Iowa State’s curriculum and for the Associated General Contractors of America
DeStigter_Glenn BW_for hall of fame web Glenn H. DeStigter (BSConE’66) – CEO of The Weitz Company; significant contributor to Iowa State construction engineering program and past chair of the Iowa State University Construction Engineering Industry Advisory Council
jack gethmann_for hall of fame web Jack Gethmann (BSConE’63) – owner of Gethmann Construction Company; key leader in developing Iowa State construction engineering curriculum
kenneth gethmann_for hall of fame web Ken Gethmann – founder and owner of Gethmann Construction Company; lobbied as MBI president to establish construction engineering program and appoint Thomas C. Jellinger as first professor-in-charge
Greenwood, Don_for hall of fame web Don Greenwood (BSCE’76) – president of construction services division at Burns & McDonnell
JellingerPhoto_for hall of fame web Thomas C. Jellinger – the first professor-in-charge of the Iowa State construction engineering program (1960-1978)
Klinger_hall of fame for web William A. Klinger – owner of W. A. Klinger, Inc.; key leader in establishing the Iowa State construction engineering program
ken_lewis_for hall of fame web Ken Lewis – key Master Builders of Iowa (MBI) leader in establishing and supporting the Iowa State construction engineering program
CorkPeterson_hall of fame for web Gale M. “Cork” Peterson, Jr. (BSConE’66) – founder and owner of Peterson Contractors, Inc.; longtime member of the Iowa State University Construction Engineering Advisory Council (including several years as chair); longtime key industry contact for Iowa State construction engineering students and alumni

Honorees are chosen each year by the Iowa State University Construction Engineering Industry Advisory Council. Honorees are presented a plaque commemorating their place in the Hall of Fame at the Construction Engineering-AGC Banquet every spring. In addition, a wall of fame displays all honorees’ portraits and brief biographies near the north entrance of Town Engineering Building.