The New Jersey Institute of Technology we know today has a rich history with its beginnings developing from the industrial age. Like many of the port cities around the world, the Newark of the late 19th century was a thriving industrial center. Its factories churned out thread, metals, paints and leather goods. In Newark, Thomas Edison set the stage at his Ward Street factory for his later astounding achievements, and Edison rival Edward Weston established the first factory in the United States for commercial production of dynamo electric machines.
On March 24, 1880, the Essex County Assemblyman in the state legislature introduced “An Act to Provide for the Establishment of Schools of Industrial Education.” The Newark Board of Trade sponsored the bill. The Act established three schools of industrial education: one in Newark, one in Trenton, and one in Hoboken. The first Board of Trustees met on July 1, 1884. The Newark Technical School opened on Monday, February 9, 1885 with 88 students who attended despite a terrible snowstorm.
The first class, mostly evening students, attended classes in a rented building at 21 West Park Street. Soon the facility became inadequate to house an expanding student body. To meet the needs of the growing school, a second fundraiser—the institution’s first capital campaign—was launched to support the construction of a dedicated building for Newark Technical School. In 1886, under the leadership of the school’s dynamic first director, Dr. Charles A. Colton, the cornerstone was laid at the intersection of High Street and Summit Place for the three-story building later to be named Weston Hall in honor of the institution’s early benefactor. A laboratory building, later to be called Colton Hall, was added to the campus in 1913. Daniel Hodgdon served as the director of Newark Technical School from 1918 to 1920.
Under Dr. Allan R. Cullimore, who led the institution from 1920 to 1949, the modest Newark Technical School was transformed into the robust Newark College of Engineering. Campbell Hall was erected in 1925. During the lean years of the Depression and World War II, only the former Newark Orphan Asylum, now Eberhardt Hall, was purchased and renovated by the college.
The post-war period was one of enormous activity during which President Cullimore—like today’s post-Cold War university presidents— challenged the college to turn “war-time thinking into peace-time thinking.” In 1946, about 75 percent of the freshman class had served in the armed forces. Robert W. Van Houten was acting president of NJIT from 1947 until 1950 when the board of trustees named him president. Cullimore Hall was built in 1958 and two years later the old Weston Hall was razed and replaced with the current seven-story structure. Doctoral-level programs were introduced and six years later, in 1966, an 18-acre, four-building expansion was completed. William Hazell succeeded Dr. Van Houten as president of NJIT in 1970.
In 1973, with the addition of the New Jersey School of Architecture, the institution had evolved into a technological university, emphasizing a broad range of graduate and undergraduate degrees and dedication to significant research and public service. A stronger-than-ever Newark College of Engineering remained intact, but a new university name—New Jersey Institute of Technology—signified the institution’s expanded mission.
A broadened mission called for the creation of a residential campus. The opening of NJIT's first dormitory, Redwood Hall, in 1979 began a period of steady growth that continues today. Under the leadership of Saul K. Fenster, who served as president of NJIT from 1978 to 2002, four new schools were established at the university: The College of Science and Liberal Arts in 1982; the School of Management in 1988; Albert Dorman Honors College in 1994; and the Ying Wu College of Computing Sciences in 2001. During the administration of Robert A. Altenkirch, New Jersey School of Architecture was reconstituted as the College of Architecture and Design in 2008.
NJIT completed the first phase of the Gateway Project in 2013, including the creation of Warren Street Village, a three-acre, mixed-use residential housing complex that added 600 beds to NJIT's existing inventory of residential housing. The complex includes the Honors College Residence Hall and five duplex homes for NJIT’s Greek organizations, as well as dining services, a convenience store and fitness center for the university community.
NJIT has been recognized nationally for providing graduates with a high rate of return on their investment. The Bloomberg Businessweek survey of U.S. colleges ranked NJIT in the top 10 percent nationally for return on investment and classified the university as one of four best buys in New Jersey higher education. BuzzFeed.com has ranked NJIT as the number one value among colleges and universities nationally. NJIT was third on Affordable Online Colleges’ Highest Return on Investment Colleges in New Jersey ranking.
NJIT has earned national prominence by developing relevant academic programs taught by leading practitioners in their fields. Six specialized schools offer 46 bachelor’s, 56 master’s, and 19 doctoral degree programs. With 489 full-time and adjunct faculty, 89 percent of whom hold doctoral degrees, the university maintains a student-faculty ratio of 16:1. NJIT serves an ethnically diverse student body, ranking number one in New Jersey in awarding engineering degrees to African-American and Hispanic students.
NJIT offers extensive Continuing and Professional Education programs and online courses that provide professional training for working students. Industry internships provide students with an entrée into the workforce. In addition, NJIT’s Division of Continuing Professional Education has provided training to over 74,000 employees in private corporations. A strong, applied research program is the core of the technological research university, generating advances that fuel today’s knowledge-based economy. Over the past decade, funding for NJIT’s research programs has grown to almost $110 million annually. NJIT conducts cutting-edge applied research through multidisciplinary centers of excellence and specialized high-tech labs. NSF has ranked NJIT in the top 50 among colleges without a medical school for research expenditures and in the top 10 among universities whose main research is in engineering.
In early 2014, NJIT formalized an agreement with Chinese partners to advance the university’s research on thin-film solar cells, an alternative energy technology with the potential to make buildings and other infrastructure substantially more energy-efficient.
In spring 2014, NJIT announced its new economic development venture—New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII). This unique enterprise is comprised of Innovation Labs (iLabs) that follow industry-led agendas designed to spur product creation and enhancement, develop solutions for sector-wide and/or company-focused challenges, and serve as a catalyst for regional economic growth.
NJIT is committed to economic development for Newark, New Jersey, and the region. One of the first institutions in the nation to adopt economic development as a major objective, the university operates several outreach centers that provide technical assistance to help small and medium-sized companies in the state become more globally competitive. The Enterprise Development Center, New Jersey’s largest high-technology business incubator, is home to 90 high-tech and life-science companies that have access to NJIT facilities and can partner with researchers to develop innovative new products.