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March 26, 2007

Department celebrates 40 years with creation of endowment

D. Dorsey Moss
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The Department of Building Construction Management in Purdue University's College of Technology is celebrating its 40-year anniversary with the creation of an endowment named after its founder.

The Dorsey Moss Future of Building Construction Management Technology Fund has been established to support student scholarships and other needs in the department. An announcement of the creation of the fund will be made April 11 at an invitation-only reception and dinner to mark the department's 40th anniversary of its creation. It is part of the college's inaugural Technology Week, which takes place April 9-13.

"We're so pleased to be able to honor Dorsey with this event and the creation of an endowment that will not just help students but reach out to our many alumni as well," said Robert F. Cox, professor and department head of building construction management. "Our graduates are very successful and are spread out all over the country. By creating this endowment and holding this event, it gives our alums a great opportunity to reconnect with the campus, celebrate the milestone and honor Dr. Moss."

Cox said Moss was close to many of the department's students, especially in the first 20 years of the program.

"Dorsey is a common denominator for so many who have gone through the program," Cox said. "Many of our alumni feel a strong connection to the department and know that they owe much of their success to Purdue and the department that Dorsey Moss created."

D. Dorsey Moss received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Purdue in 1949 and graduate degrees from the University of Illinois. He is a professor emeritus of building construction management. He taught at Purdue for nearly 40 years. He created the department in 1967 and remained its head until 1981. He was a professor in the department until 1990 and continued teaching until 1998. He currently lives in West Lafayette.

Moss said the purpose of the Department of Building Construction Management was to prepare students who were qualified to be construction company managers. This required that they have not only a technical background, but also business, planning and people skills.

Cox said one of Moss's great legacies is that he created a building construction management program that firmly sets itself apart from civil engineering. He said that is important on an engineering campus because many people believe the two programs are the same.

"There are just over 100 building construction management four-year programs in the country, so creating a department like this is fairly unusual," Cox said. "It was even more farsighted when Dorsey created it in the 1960s, especially on an engineering campus. Dorsey can be credited with developing a program that has the rigor of engineering but keeps a separate identity from civil engineering."

Cox said the department's curriculum teaches students the science and logistics of the construction industry and also gives them a firm base in business and real-world side of construction.

"Our graduates have all the skills to pull teams together to get projects done," he said.

Moss said he remembers building the department from the ground up.

"In the early days, it was essentially a one-man operation, and it was several years before the dean approved any staff for the department," Moss said. "It was a challenge, but I am proud with what was created."

The Department of Building Construction Management was founded in 1967, but its roots at Purdue go back another 20 years. In 1946, a non-degree, construction craft-oriented construction program was begun to train returning GIs after World War II. By the 1950s, the program had shifted from postwar, non-academic teaching of construction craft skills to teaching of drafting and surveying skills.

Though the years, the department underwent many changes. In 1964, the program became known as the Department of Architectural and Civil Engineering Technology and was part of the newly created School of Technology. The department offered associate degree programs in architectural technology and civil engineering technology. These programs were offered at the Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Hammond campuses.

In 1966, the department name was changed to the Department of Construction Technology, and Moss, a faculty member at the Fort Wayne campus, was appointed department head. The following year, the School of Technology extended the two-year programs to baccalaureate curricula. In addition, Moss's position as department head was moved to the West Lafayette campus where the construction technology program was initiated.

By 1976, the department had changed its name to the Department of Building Construction and Contracting. In 1979, the department received accreditation by of the American Council for Construction Education. In 1996, the department's name was changed to the current name, the Department of Building Construction Management.

While the department experienced significant growth in its first 30 years, Moss remembers the earliest days when staff was sparse and he had to play a lot of different roles.

"When we first started, I was the academic adviser as well as the professor," he said. "I helped students figure out their schedules, and sometimes I got calls at 10 at night for help with homework. Those were wonderful years because I became very close to all the students in the department."

One such student was Randall Ket of Brownsburg, Ind., who received a bachelor's degree from the department in 1980 and is now vice president of Hunt Construction Group in Indianapolis.

"When I was a student, Dr. Moss was the department head and also taught classes," he said. "There were only about a couple of dozen students in the department, and we had one classroom dedicated to the program. Despite our size and lack of accommodations, it was the vision of Dr. Moss that made the department such a success."

Ket said Moss had the ability to create a department that would turn out graduates that would be leaders in the industry.

"I have been successful with my career due to the education I received at Purdue and the vision of Dr. Moss, and I would say that such success is the rule, not the exception," Ket said.

Purdue's Department of Building and Construction Management is part of the College of Technology. It offers bachelor's degree specializations in electrical construction management, mechanical construction management, residential construction management, healthcare construction management and demolition and reconstruction management. It also offers a traditional master's degree program as well as a distance master's program, which enrolls students from around the country.

To donate to the Dorsey Moss fund, contact the Office of Advancement, Purdue College of Technology, Knoy Hall, Room 465, 401 N. Grant St., West Lafayette, IN 47907, (888) 428-1489 or

Writer: Kim Medaris, (765) 494-6998,

Source: Robert F. Cox, (765) 494-2459,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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