Art of Engineering Exhibit Enlivens CEER

Over seven days that included presentations and networking with industry partners, on-line speed mentoring with the Engineering Alumni Society, the annual Patrick J. Cunningham, Jr. and Susan Ward '80 Endowed Lecture Series in Engineering and more, one of the highlights of Engineers’ Week 2018 at Villanova University was a reception for a new Art of Engineering exhibit in the Center for Engineering Education and Research.

“I thought that art reflecting actual work being done in the building and pieces that show the creativity behind engineering themes would be a great way to decorate the hallways of CEER,” says Helen Tursi, manager of College Operations, who conceived the idea and invited students, faculty and staff to submit photographs and graphic images that communicate what engineering means to them. The work selected—27 pieces—reveals engineering in art and in the natural and virtual worlds. Among the images are physical structures, design and construction, student projects, the human body and DNA on the molecular scale, and engineering in nature, from flowers and ice crystals, to waterways and dams.

One of the most interesting pieces, “The Art of the Machine,” is the work of William Leighton Jr., Villanova Engineering class of 1950. Having spent his career as a sales engineer with F.J. Stokes selling custom-designed, high vacuum and freeze drying equipment in the era before computers, Leighton would create a drawing of the machine for the customer. “Sometimes they were done on yellow paper, sometimes on graph paper, sometimes even on a coffee-stained restaurant placemat,” says son William Leighton III ’73 EE, PhD. His father’s dream was to write a book on mechanical engineering systems using his drawings as illustrations, but Parkinson’s disease stole those plans. “He was increasingly frustrated with his inability to complete the book,” says Leighton III, “so I scanned his three decades worth of drawings and in 2007 printed his ‘book’ for him.” The elder Leighton passed away in 2008, but his art lives on in one of the selections now gracing the third floor of CEER.

“Creativity and innovation has become such a large part of what we teach in the College of Engineering, and the Art of Engineering really reflects that,” says Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Andrea Welker, PhD, who championed the project and supported Tursi’s vision.

Students, faculty and staff had nothing but glowing compliments for the visions of the artists in their midst.  “We clearly are home to a great deal of talent!” acknowledges Tursi.