Today in NC State History: Engineering dean gets the call

May 15, 2015
By Chris Saunders

historyIconNC State’s contributions to the war efforts in the 1940s during World War II has been well documented.

But it wasn’t just students from NC State who were pitching in both on the homefront  and in the Pacific and Europe. It was administrators, too, as it was on this day in 1942 that Blake Ragsdale Van Leer, the dean of the School of Engineering, was called for active duty in the U.S.  Army.

Blake Ragsdale Van Leer. Photo courtesy of NCSU Libraries.

Blake Ragsdale Van Leer. Photo courtesy of NCSU Libraries.

“This morning, Blake Ragsdale Van Leer, Dean of the School of Engineering, reported to Fort Bragg for a physical examination,” The Technician reported. “Monday, he will be in Washington to assume the duties of an Army Major, on the staff of Gerneral Brehon B. Somervell, head of the important supply section of the War Department.”

Van Leer had been dean of NC State’s engineering school for five years in 1937, “bringing with him wide experience as a teacher and administrator in some of the well-known engineering schools of the nations. Under his far-sighted guidance, the School has been undergoing the greatest period of progress and expansion in history.”

The Technician announces Van Leer's  departure in the same issue as it announced the first graduation during war time in 25 years.

The Technician announces Van Leer’s departure in the same issue as it announced the first graduation during war time in 25 years.

At age 48, Van Leer had been in the Army reserves for 14 years. He had been a lieutenant colonel with the cadet corp while an undergraduate at Purdue University, according to The Technician.

And he had an extensive record of service during World War I.

“His war service included five major engagements in the front lines, including action during the famous Meuse-Argonne and St. Mihiel operation. On duty with Belgian troops in 1918 he was awarded the Croix de Guerre for exceptional work in a hazardous task.”

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