AMHERST, Mass. - George A. Marston, the first dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, has received the Chancellor’s Medal, the highest honor given by the campus in recognition of service to the University. Marston, 89, was cited for his devotion, loyalty, and exceptional service to UMass, as well as for his "statesmanlike demeanor." The medal was presented at a Dec. 17 luncheon honoring the College’s past and present deans, an event held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the College of Engineering. Approximately 75 faculty members, family members, and alumni attended the event at the Gunness Engineering Student Center.
Marston, a native of Montague and a longtime resident of Amherst, earned his bachelor’s degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He earned a master’s degree in hydraulics at the University of Iowa, and in 1933 was hired as a mathematics instructor at Massachusetts State College, the University’s forerunner. He later earned a professional degree in civil engineering from WPI. (That school subsequently awarded him an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 1958.) Marston began teaching engineering in 1938, offering courses in applied mechanics, strength of materials, hydraulics, highway structure, water supply, and surveying. He also developed courses in applied mechanics, kinetics and hydraulics. Marston left campus for three years, beginning in 1943, to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Following the end of the war, hundreds of returning soldiers were offered GI Bill training, and wanted to become engineers. In response to the intense demand for engineering education, the trustees of the college approved the formation of a School of Engineering – which is now called the College of Engineering – on Sept. 1, 1947. Six months later they named Marston its first dean, a position he held until his retirement in 1963. The school was fully accredited by 1950, and had announced plans to begin a graduate program.
Marston is credited with building the College from the ground up. He has recalled offering one of the original professors lab space in a potato storage shed, using the attic of Flint Hall as classroom space, and setting up a $30 petty cash fund for professors in need of engineering equipment. During his tenure, Marston oversaw the construction of five buildings on campus. Enrollment in engineering grew from 40 to 900. The school expanded to include chemical, electrical, mechanical, civil and industrial engineering.
The College of Engineering now boasts more than 1,000 undergraduates, 400 graduate students, and 100 faculty members, four of whom have been named to the National Academy of Engineering. The College has graduated 13,000 living alumni, nearly three-quarters of whom live in Massachusetts. It has been rated among the top 50 engineering schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
Marston prided himself on continuing to be an active teacher, even while serving as dean. He managed to teach at least one class a semester, until his last three years on campus. After his retirement from UMass, Marston went on to serve at Western New England College as dean of engineering, a post he held for five years, and then spent an additional five years there as a professor of mechanical engineering. In 1970, the Engineering Building at UMass was renamed Marston Hall, in a ceremony attended by hundreds of alumni, faculty members, and engineering professionals. A six-foot-three former hiker and tennis player, Marston remains visible at UMass, taking frequent walks through the Amherst campus, particularly the engineering quadrangle.
In addition to Marston, the following deans were honored: Acting Dean E. Ernest Lindsey (1963-1966); Dean Kenneth G. Picha (1966-76); Acting Dean Joseph S. Marcus (1976); Dean Russel C. Jones (1977-81); Acting Dean Samuel F. Conti (1981-1982); Acting Dean Richard Giglio (1982); Dean James E. A. John (1983-1991); Acting Dean Keith Carver (1991-1993); and Dean Joseph I. Goldstein (1993-present).