Co-op turns 100

Apr 21, 2006

Charles "Boss Ket" Kettering will be inducted into the "Pioneers in Cooperative Education" Hall of Honor on April 24 as the country celebrates the centennial of co-op education.

A practical education -- thousands have benefited from co-op opportunities in the past century and so it is fitting that hundreds of co-op supporters will gather at the University of Cincinnati campus on Monday, April 24, to say "Happy 100th Birthday" to cooperative education. Representatives from 500 co-op colleges and universities in Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and the United States are expected to attend a celebratory banquet in the Great Hall of the University of Cincinnati at 7 p.m.

Kettering University's distinguished history of cooperative education will be represented in several ways at this national event:

  • Kettering's namesake -- Charles "Boss Ket" Kettering - will be inducted into the "Pioneers in Cooperative Education" Hall of Honor during the celebration.
  • Two faculty members will receive the prestigious Ralph W. Tyler Award. Dr. Laura Sullivan and Dr. Karen Wilkinson will be honored for research on job satisfaction in Engineering.
  • Trustee Charles Kettering will represent both the Kettering family and Kettering University at Hall of Honor ceremonies.
  • Kettering President Stan Liberty will escort Kettering's grandson, Charles Kettering, as part of the Hall of Honor induction ceremony and
  • Kettering Vice President Bob Nichols from Corporate Relations and Enrollment Management will participate in centennial events.

Charles F. "Boss Ket" Kettering (1876-1958)

The University nominated Charles "Boss Ket" Kettering for the Hall of Honor for his lifetime devotion to "practical education." From the early days of 1906 when he supported the co-op innovations of Dean Herman Schneider at the University ofCincinnati to eventually serving as the "godfather" of the prominent co-op school General Motors Institute in Flint (now Kettering University), Mr. Kettering was an advocate for a work-study approach that allowed students to apply what they learned and exercise imagination, creativity and originality. "Boss Ket" was a gifted engineer and inventor who produced the all-electric ignition and lighting system that became standard equipment on the 1912 Cadillac. Mr. Kettering's numerous speeches and prolific writings are replete with references to co-operative education. On countless occasions, he proclaimed the advantages of hands-on learning. He supported an early concept of "practical education" in General Motors plants. In a 1916 speech in Flint, Mich., he said: "There is no war between theory and practice. The most valuable experience demands both. The theory should supplement the practice and not precede it."

He strongly supported starting co-op programs at Antioch College in 1921 and Northwestern in 1939. Speaking to the 1941 graduating class at GMI, Mr. Kettering said: "If we taught music the way we try to teach engineering, in an unbroken four-year course, we would end up with theory and no music. Practical experience is needed to correlate the so-called theory with practice."

In 1957, as chair of the Thomas Alva Edison Foundation, he set in motion efforts that led to the greatest expansion in co-op's history.

Charles F. Kettering was born on a farm in Ohio in 1876; his early vocation was as a teacher in Ohio's one-room schools. He entered the College of Wooster in Ohio, but poor eyesight caused him to leave college and return to teaching. In 1898, he entered the engineering school at Ohio State University, graduating with an Electrical Engineering degree in 1904. His early work was in the Inventions Department at the National Cash Register Company (NCR) in Dayton, Ohio. During a five-year stay, he developed the electric motor forcashregisters and other contributions to the revolution of business machines.

In 1909, he and Edward Deeds formed an industrial research laboratory later known as DELCO. Within three years, they had produced an all-electric ignition and lighting system that became standard equipment on the 1912 Cadillac. DELCO was eventually sold to General Motors and became the foundation for GM's Research Corp. Mr. Kettering's list of innovations and inventions is staggering. His book of patents includes 300 separate applications from a portable lighting system for farms -- to coolants for refrigerators -- to an incubator for premature infants. "Duco" paint and "ethyl" gasoline were his ideas and he was instrumental in their development. His interests included the development of the diesel engine, solar power and he was a pioneer in the application of magnetism to medical diagnosis techniques. He served as vice president for the General Motors Research Corp. from 1920 through 1947, and remained a consultant until a series of strokes ended his life on Nov. 24, 1958.

Joining Charles F. Kettering in UC's Co-op Hall of Honor in 2006 are:

Herman Schneider, turn-of-the-century dean of UC's College of Engineering, founded the practice of cooperative education here in 1906. In so doing, he overcame great resistance to the idea from within the university and from industry as well. Indeed, the co-op proposition squeaked by the UC Board of Trustees with one vote to spare. The very wording of the trustees' consent is a doubt-laden contract: "We hereby grant the right to Dean Schneider to try, for one year, this cooperative idea of education... [for] the failure of which, we will not assume responsibility."

Albert Barber is considered by many to be the father of cooperative education in Canada. He was the first director of the University of Waterloo's Department of CooperativeEducation after that university began a co-op program in 1957. Today, the University of Waterloo houses the world's largest co-op program.

Donald Hunt was an engineering co-op student who, in 1945, became dean of Cooperative Education, Career Planning and Placement at the University of Detroit, an institution that began co-op in 1911. Hunt served in the role of co-op dean at the university for nearly 40 years and authored reference volumes and other materials related to co-op.

John Manley was a turn-of-the-century attorney for the Cincinnati Metal Trades Association. As such, his support was key to starting co-op here in Cincinnati which, in the early 1900s, made more machine tools than any other city in the world. Manley worked closely with UC's Herman Schneider to convince local firm to accept those first co-op students.

Frank Vandergrift served for 20 years as director of the Cooperative Education Program at Auburn University, where co-op was adopted in 1937. He also co-founded the Alabama Cooperative Education Association.

James Wilson of the Rochester Institute of Technology, where co-op was adopted in 1912, conducted the first nationwide research study of cooperative education. In 1961, he published the first comprehensive documentation of the value of cooperative education and paved the way for later federal support of co-op's expansion. He also served as editor of the Journal of Cooperative Education and vice president of the Cooperative Education and Internship Association.

James Wohlford, a one-time co-op student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, later came to direct the institution's co-op program. During his tenure as director, which began in 1951, he increased student participation in co-op at Georgia Tech from 200to morethan 3,000 students. In addition, he developed the first accreditation criteria for engineering co-op programs and helped to found the Southeast Region Cooperative Education Conference.

It all started at the University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati is the global birthplace of cooperative education. The practice was founded in 1906, allowing students to learn and earn by alternating quarters spent in the classroom with quarters of paid, professional work related directly to their majors.


  • The 2005-2006 school year marks co-op's centennial, and on- and off-campus audiences have taken note. Both local media and national - media as diverse as the Los Angeles Times, Newhouse News Service, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Young Money magazine and others - have applauded the co-op concept during its anniversary year.
  • On display at the University of Cincinnati will be representation of a 15,000 square foot garden that will be created and named for co-op's founder, Herman Schneider. That garden will be situated between McMicken Hall, the Joseph A. Steger Student Life Center and Baldwin Hall. This Herman Schneider Memorial Garden will eventually include low granite seating walls containing the names of the Co-op Hall of Honor inductees, a co-op timeline and other information relating to co-op.
  • About 200 co-op employers are expected to attend the National Commission for Cooperative Education Corporate Symposium set for June 20, 2006, at the Kingsgate Marriott Hotel in Cincinnati.

Written by Pat Mroczek, with source materials from the University of Cincinnati
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