Friday, December 6, 2013
UNO Engineers Celebrate "Cap Day"
On Thursday, graduating seniors in the UNO College of Engineering received traditional
railroad engineer caps signifying membership and pride in their new profession. From
left: Natalia Kravchenko, 27, of Ukraine and Oleksii Novikov, 30, of Ukraine both
plan to be civil engineers.
On Friday, a number of top UNO engineers will join Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society,
which is the second oldest honor society in the U.S. after Phi Beta Kappa. The ceremony
will involve a secret ritual. The symbol for Tau Beta Phi is an engineer's bent.
From left: Gabriel Arce , 22, of Ecuador and Claudio Calderon, 24, of New York both
plan to be civil engineers.
At commencement on Friday, Dec. 20, graduating seniors will replace their mortarboard
graduation caps with their engineers' caps at a special point during the ceremony.
The Changing of the Caps has been a tradition in the UNO College of Engineering for
more than 40 years. From left: Electrical engineer Rania Maddad, 23, of Lebanon; mechanical
engineer Takumi Inamoto, 23, of Nicaragua; electrical engineer Jason Vanhuss, 30,
of Metairie, and civil engineer Gabriel Arce, 22, of Ecuador will participate.
"Cap Day" at UNO is a cause for celebration. On Thursday, graduating seniors in the
College of Engineering pledged the Oath of the Engineer, written by engineer and poet
Rudyard Kipling, and received engineers' rings as well as certificates proving their
membership in a lifelong society.
The courtyard outside the University of New Orleans' College of Engineering crackled
with excitement Thursday as graduating engineering seniors gathered to participate
in several traditions unique to their craft.
"Every semester now we have Cap Day," said Dean of the College of Engineering Norm
Whitley. "And then...we have the Order of the Engineer ceremony."
Come see the Changing of the Caps! UNO Fall 2013 Commencement takes place from 3 to
6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 20 at Lakefront Arena.
Fifty-eight undergraduates majoring in engineering will receive their UNO diplomas
this month at Lakefront Arena, Whitley said. Following tradition, they came to the
courtyard at lunchtime to receive a railroad engineer's cap symbolizing their new
The informal handing out of caps preceded a formal indoctrination into the Order of
the Engineer, where students pledged an oath written by freemason and prize-winning
poet Rudyard Kipling and received a special ring signifying their membership in a
"It is a meaningful and serious thing that we ask of you today but we believe it will
make a difference in your future," Whitley told the graduating seniors as they took
their oaths and received their rings.
The founding dean of the UNO College of Engineering — a native of Germany named Fritz
Dohse — started the engineering school's tradition of wearing railroad caps at commencement,
Whitley said. Dohse based what is now a longstanding UNO tradition on a bonafide rite
of passage known among engineers in Canada as "The Calling."
The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer is a secret ritual in which students about
to graduate from an engineering program at a university in Canada, Canadian professional
engineers and registered engineers-in-training are allowed to participate.
According to that tradition, a presiding group called The Corporation of the Seven
Wardens, Inc. leads a ceremony in which participants pledge the "Obligation of Canadian
Engineers" and receive the profession's traditional Iron Ring. Canadian engineers
may wear the wrought-iron ring throughout their lifetimes to signify their belonging
to the engineering profession and to show they have pledged an oath of ethics in engineering.
The Canadian tradition dates to 1922 when seven past presidents of the Engineering
Institute of Canada decided they needed a tradition to surround the ethical obligation
pledge penned by Kipling, according to Institute history. The swearing-in ceremony
was designed to give new engineers heightened consciousness of their profession and
its social significance, as well as to demonstrate to more experienced engineers their
responsibilities in welcoming and supporting newer engineers entering the profession.
Changing of the Caps
On Thursday, UNO graduating seniors majoring in engineering received blue-and-white-striped
railroad engineer caps that they will bring to commencement, where the traditional
changing of caps will take place, Whitley said. The UNO engineers will at a certain
point during the commencement ceremony after receiving their diplomas collectively
remove their traditional mortar-board graduation caps and replace them with the working
man's caps. The caps are worn as both a point of pride and a humble reference to the
creative and genius work that U.S. engineers have performed for centuries.
Each semester at UNO, the College of Engineering distributes the railroad caps at
an informal outside ceremony designed to bring engineering students and administrators
together in a festive environment where they can share undergraduate experiences and
celebrate their hard work and success, said Kim Jovanovich, assistant dean.
The changing of the caps has been a UNO engineering tradition for more than 40 years,
said UNO alumnus Pierre Champagne, who received his own railroad engineer's cap from
UNO in 1976 and helped preside over yesterday's Order of the Engineer indoctrination
Order of the Engineer
Following a hamburger lunch, graduating seniors proceeded into the Engineering auditorium,
where they were formally inducted into the Order of the Engineer, self-described as
the formal roster of engineers in the United States who have participated in an Engineer's
Ring Ceremony and publicly accepted the "Obligation of an Engineer."
Link 118 of the Order of the Engineer was chartered at UNO in 1991, said Engineering
Professor Norma Jean Mattei. The UNO chapter is the first established in Louisiana
and served as a model for the chapter later established at Louisiana State University
School of Engineering in Baton Rouge.
"The purpose of the Order of the Engineer is to call attention to the obligation of
the all engineers to use their technical education ethically in shaping the world
around them," said Whitley, who has taught engineering at UNO for more than 30 years. "Ethical
practice of engineering occasionally requires great courage and always requires that
we maintain the highest standards of personal integrity."
The swearing-in ceremony encourages engineers to "recall that the professional purpose
of engineering involves the pursuit of a learned art in the spirit of public service,"
said Whitley, before leading students through the formal Oath of the Engineer.
"The intent is to bind engineers to one another," said Mattei.
One-by-one, engineering students signed their names into membership in the Order,
accepted formal certificates and received shiny stainless-steel rings. The rings,
modeled after the Canadian engineers' Iron Ring, symbolizes the pride which engineers
have in their profession, while simultaneously reminding them of their duty of responsibility
to the public, Whitley said. The ring is worn on the small finger of the working hand.
Acceptance of the ring and indoctrination into the Order of the Engineer "means more
than the right to practice a learned profession or to enjoy a reasonably affluent
life," UNO Engineering Professor Bhaskar Kura told students. "Wherever our profession
leads, whether it is creating a cleaner environment, designing a better bridge, devising
a more useful product or developing a safer community, there our talents should be
The certificate students received is both their creed and their pact with the profession,
"Read it thoughtfully. Display it publicly. In times of anxiety, look upon your ring
and take courage," he said. "In times of honor, regard it with humility. Wear it proudly
and with distinction. May long life and success attend your efforts."