The Board of Regents of the University, in a resolution passed on June 3, 1910, appointed Mr. W.J. Colbert as acting Dean of the College of Engineering. His appointment was set to effect on June 13, 1910 thereby creating the College of Engineering. Dean Colbert was authorized to prepare the curriculum and select the necessary teaching personnel for the new course. Initially, a four-year course leading to the degree of Bachelor of Science with an additional degree of Civil Engineer upon completion of an extra year of study was approved. The first instructor to be appointed was Mr. Jose P. Katigbak of the City Engineer’s Office of Manila, as instructor in graphics (drawing) on a part-time basis.
Twenty-two high school graduates from all over the country registered in engineering when classes opened in June 1910. The students enjoyed free tuition in the college. The classes were held at a two-story building, the O’brien residence, at the corner of Isaac Peral (now United Nations Avenue) and Florida (now Maria Y. Orosa) streets in Ermita, Manila. The offices of the University were on the ground floor. Engineering and liberal arts classes alternated in using the rooms on the second floor. Mathematics and physics were taken under the College of Engineering. The classes in drawing were held at the Manila High School building along Calle Victoria in Intramuros. The O’brien house was formally turned over to the College in September, 1910, and became known as the “College of Engineering.”
Later on, as the Engineering Building and shops were constructed along the Florida side of the U.P. Campus in Ermita, that building became the Home Economics Building of the College of Education.
In an interview in 1960 with Mr. Ricardo Nostratis of Cavite, one of the first enrollees (he graduated with degree of Bachelor of Science in 1914, and Civil Engineer in 1915), he reminisced that among his engineering classmates were Vidal A. Tan, Ricardo Paras, Aurelio L. Corcuera and Domingo Guanio. They used to trudge across Nazoleda Park (present Rizal Park) from Ermita to Intramuros for their drawing classes. Vidal Tan obtained a degree in liberal arts , took his degree in civil engineering at Cornell University, became dean of the College of Engineering (1940 to 1949), and later on President of the University. Ricardo Paras shifted to law; Corcuera and Guanio completed the bachelor of science degree in 1914 and civil engineering afterwards, the former becoming the head of the department of physics of the University for a long time. Only thirteen out of the original twenty-two came back for the second year engineering course in June 1911. Before the college was one year old, the Board of Regents decided to require a two-year preparatory work in liberal arts as a requirement for admission in engineering. The curriculum in engineering was for four years of purely professional studies after the two-year preparatory work. The preparatory curriculum was given by the College of Liberal Arts (then known as the College of Philosophy, Science and Letters). This change took effect in June 1911, thus there were no first year engineering students that year. Twenty-eight students registered in the first year of the preparatory engineering curriculum.
Of the thirteen second year students, nine switched to the new curriculum to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree. In the revision of the engineering curriculum and in the preparation of the two-year preparatory work, the University secured the services of Mr. Clarence G. Wrentmore of the Bureau of Public Works, an engineer and a teacher from the University of Michigan. For the academic year of 1911-1912, Dr. Lawrence E. Griffin was designated acting Dean of the College; and Mr. Ambrosio Magsaysay was appointed instructor in graphics to succeed Mr. Katigbak who had been designated City Engineer of the City of Manila. On October 9, 1911, Mr. Wrentmore was appointed professor of Civil Engineering and Dean of the College effective at the opening of the school year 1912-1913.
A summer surveying course which lasts eight weeks and conducted during the vacation period following the second year of the preparatory curriculum, as required in the new plan of study, was held in Los Baños for the first time in 1912. The following year this summer surveying class was held in Baguio, the result was reported satisfactory and it was recommended that it be held there permanently.
For the school year 1912-1913, five students enrolled in the third year of the old five-year curriculum. These were the remnants of the original 22 of 1910. Mr. Roy S. Swinton was appointed instructor in surveying on July 12, 1912. (Mr. Swinton returned to the College as professor of civil engineering in 1941 until the outbreak of World war II.) On October 13, 1913, Mr. Herman W. Reynolds, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of California, was appointed Associate Professor to give instruction in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering to the Civil Engineering students. Also appointed was Mr. E.L. Driggs as instructor in surveying and later Associate Professor of Civil Engineering.
Three students graduated at the end of 1913-1914 with the degree of Bachelor of Science. These were the remainder of the original 22; they all enrolled for another year to obtain the degree of Civil Engineer. These were Aurelio L. Corcuera of Manila, Domingo Guanio of Nueva Ecija and Ricardo Nostratis of Cavite.
The need for more engineers and the paucity of students taking up engineering despite the free tuition, made it advisable to offer further inducement by shortening the course. The President of the University recommended this step in his annual reports. Accordingly, in 1914-1915, the preparatory engineering course was made optional but it was recommended in the announcements that those who could afford its inclusion should take it. From that year on, high school graduates accredited in solid geometry could enter the College without the two years of college preparatory formerly required, and at the end of four years these students could graduate with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. The completion of a one-year prescribed post graduate course led to the degree of Master of Civil Engineering.
As a result of this curriculum innovation, 46 students registered in the first year (1914-1915) regular course and 13 in the first year preparatory engineering course. On the commencement day of 1915, two students graduated with the degree of Civil Engineer. Dean Wrentmore recommended the institution of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering courses in keeping with the industrial development of the country; it would not appreciably increase the operating expenses of the college.
Accordingly, the Board of Regents approved on January 10, 1916, the curricula leading to the degrees of Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mining Engineering. Additional one year of study led to the degree of Master of Science in the respective fields. Announcements were made for opening these courses at the start of the academic year 1916-1917. Professor H.W. Reynolds was made head of the departments of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering.
Mr. Mariano Salas was appointed instructor in the same department. Substantial appropriations were earmarked for laboratory equipment to augment the engines and motors that were installed in 1915. A one-story reinforced concrete building was constructed facing Calle Florida. It was designed similarly with the building that housed the chemistry laboratory along the same street. In this new building were the offices of the mechanical and electrical engineering departments. It also contained the laboratory facilities: a steam boiler, two steam engines, a gasoline engine, a crude oil engine, direct current and alternating current motors, generators, transformers and testing apparatuses. In the hydraulics laboratory, there were equipment for testing the flow of water and other fluids in pipes and open channels, through orifices and wires; also for testing of water meters, pumps and hydraulic motors. However, classes in wood working and machine shop were held at the School of Arts and Trades along Ayala Blvd.
In 1916, Professor Driggs was authorized to retire, while Professor Magsaysay transferred to the Bureau of Public Works. However, Professor Driggs was prevailed to stay until July 15, 1918. Mr. Fernando dela Cantera replaced Prof. Magsaysay with the appointment of Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering. Additions to the faculty in 1918 were Hermenegildo B. Reyes, a Cornell University graduate in electrical engineering, who was appointed Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. Messrs. Justo Arrastia and Prudencio Esquivel were appointed instructors in drawing.
In April 1919, Dean Clarence Wrentmore retired which left vacant the deanship and head of the Department of Civil Engineering. Wrentmore was connected with the College during the formative years (1912-1919) and accomplished much for the College. He was succeeded to the deanship by a member of the faculty who proved equal to the task of continuing the work so far accomplished – Professor Herman W. Reynolds was appointed Dean beginning the academic year 1919-1920.