First-Hand:History of an ASEE Fellow - Frank Gourley

History of an ASEE Fellow


(As of January 15, 2018)

Birthplace: Danville, VA

Birth date: June 24, 1940


Within the past ten years I have learned that my ancestor, Capt. Thomas Gourley, came to the United States in the 1760’s from Dublin, Ireland. My mother’s side can be traced back to the 1770’s, as well, and they came from England and France. Both sides of the family experienced humble beginnings, out of which they have never progressed. Generations of both sides of the family were farmers or worked in agricultural-related occupations. My grandparent’s families both moved to town (Danville, VA) in the early 1900s, where my parents met. For a number of generations, both families had had large families almost all of whom lived in the area. My immediate family was one of the first to ‘leave town’. We subsequently moved to Reidsville, Greensboro, Wrightsville Beach, Fayetteville, and near Eden, NC before moving to a farm my mother inherited near Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. I was 15 at the time and the family found itself immersed in homesteading, long before homesteading was cool! We became (below) subsistence tobacco farmers, returning to the occupation of our ancestors! From this narrative is evident that I am a first generation engineer.

Fast forward to now and I have two children, Libby and Austin, and three grandchildren by my daughter, Devyn, Brody, and Kelsea. Libby has a DDS and is now working for an international company which monitors medical research. She lives at Carolina Beach, NC and travels all over North America. Austin is in Dallas and works for Sears. The grandchildren are in Raleigh and are between college and beginning careers. My wife, Genene, has two children and three grandchildren by her former marriage.


In 1958, I enrolled at the Danville Branch of Virginia Polytechnic Institute(VPI/VA Tech) to study Mechanical Engineering. After two successful years there, I transferred to the main campus of VPI at Blacksburg and completed the BSME in the summer of 1962, with honors. My focus there was primarily on studying, but I did initiate and serve as president of the Franklin County Moonshiners Association, a student group (with no drinking allowed), during that time.

The Instructor in Engineering position at the Danville Branch of VPI came open that summer and I found myself teaching all the freshman and sophomore engineering courses, but two – fourteen courses, including labs, in five major subject areas! After three years, I decided to seek other challenges in the field of engineering/technical education.

I then enrolled in the graduate program at the School of Industrial and Technical Education at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. I completed course work for the MS degree and found employment with the NC State Department of Community Colleges (NCDCC) as state Director of Engineering (Technology) Programs. In this position, I was responsible for curriculum development, approval, and in-service education for, eventually, about 50 different curricula areas of various types in the institutions in the community college system. During the 14 years I was with in this position, I continued my studies on a part-time basis toward a doctorate in Occupational Education with a minor in Design/Product Design/Architecture. I also initiated an effort to move and convert a large dairy barn into a house.


After 17 years working at the college level in teaching and administration of engineering and engineering technology education, I accepted a position with Carolina Power & Light Company (CP&L) as Coordinator of Craft & Technical Development (C&TD). In this position, I coordinated the development and implement activities of four department training staffs for five-year, ten-step, progression-integrated training programs. Upon the completion and implementation of programs for 26 classifications, I became a Senior Engineer in the Safety Section of the company, developing computerized data systems and safety training programs. During the time with the power company, I completed the requirements for my doctorate and started the process of becoming a Professional Engineer. I also completed the conversion of the dairy barn into a house.

In 1990, I accepted the position of Division Director of Engineering Technology and Industrial Technology in the College of Technology and Applied Science at West Virginia (University) Institute of Technology (WVUIT). I soon received my PE. The Division offered multiple associate and baccalaureate degrees by, eventually, four departments. We worked closely with the College of Engineering on campus to provide comprehensive choices to students. We shared labs, faculty, and some courses to maximize the limited available resources. We also had detailed transfer agreements for each program in ten community colleges in the surrounding region; and articulation agreements for programs in seven regional vocational-technical centers.

Research and Scholarship

Responsibilities while employed by the NCDCC included developing and producing curriculum guides, curriculum manuals, instructional manuals, and resource publications working with statewide instructor groups and advisory committees. With CP&L, I coordinated the development of: guidelines for the C&TD Program, a computerized tracking and reporting system for employees participating in the C&TD program (about 2000), and the comprehensive training materials for selected classifications. In addition, I wrote and documented the computer programming, as well as the operating manuals, for the safety data systems. I also selected and reviewed safety training materials, produced catalogs of the materials, and developed safety training programs. At WVUIT, in addition to in-house research and reports for various purposes, I was responsible for coordinating and editing the TAC-ABET Self Studies for eight programs.

At the national level, over the years, I had well over 100 papers and articles presented and/or published on various topics, mainly related to engineering technology education. I authored two chapters in Engineering Technology: An ASEE History. I was editorial coordinator for about five years for the May issue of ASEE’s Engineering Education. In 1990, I compiled the Directory of Engineering Technology Institutions and Programs publication, which is now an on-line ( interactive information source for those interested in engineering technology education. I initiated the annual “Engineering Technology Education Bibliography”, now published in the Journal of Engineering Technology. I was also listed in several different Who’s Who directories for a number of years.

ASEE Activities

I joined ASEE initially in 1963 while teaching engineering at VPI-Danville Branch. My membership lapsed, for a year or so, and I rejoined in 1967 and have been a member ever since. The first Annual Conference I attended was at Penn State University in 1969 and I have attended all but three since then – 1970, 2015, and 2016. I was active in the CIEC over the years, serving as General Conference Chair one year. I was also somewhat active in the ETLI. My primary activities in ASEE were with the Engineering Technology Division/Council where I served in various capacities, including ETD Chair, Program Chair, Newsletter Editor, Mini-Grants (initiator and) Coordinator, Goals & Activities Committee Chair, Long Range Planning Committee Chair, and ETD/ETC Centennial Committee Member; and ETC Publications Committee Chair, Library Affairs Committee Chair, ET Directory Administrator, and Director. I received the James H. McGraw Award for contributions to engineering technology education in 1999. As a member of the Academy of Fellows, I served eight years as Newsletter Editor.

Other Professional Activities

Through membership in the America Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), I became active in ABET. I served as program evaluator and team chair on numerous visits to engineering technology institutions. In addition, I served two terms on the ABET Board. In ASME, I served on the Council on Education Board on Engineering Education, and as Committee on Technology Accreditation Chair. I received the Ben Sparks Medal for contributions to mechanical engineering and engineering technology education.

I was instrumental in the formation of two statewide engineering technology educational administrator associations – one in North Carolina and the other in West Virginia. These organizations also formed instructor sub-groups, by discipline areas, focused on improving their education programs.

I was active in several statewide and local organizations in NC and WV, including the Rotary International, where I became a Paul Harris Fellow.

Over the years, I served as a consultant to NSF, the NCDCC, and to several universities with TAC-ABET programs.

For about 15 years, I served in numerous leadership roles working with the coordinator of MerleFest, an internationally recognized Americana music festival held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, NC. This festival grew from 2,000 attendees to 100,000 attendees during the years I was a volunteer. I had major impacts on the direction and offerings of the event as a result of the extensive follow up suggestions I made each year. Among other responsibilities, I served as coordinator of Artist Check-in for two years and coordinator of Perimeter Security for five years, a task involving 200-300 volunteers.

Philosophy of Engineering Education

My interest in engineering education has been on the application side. This has led to a challenging career attempting to keep up with the constantly changing technology in the diverse fields of engineering. My time in industry was an eye opener when I realized that the company I was in was applying better educational concepts in developing their training programs than I had practiced in my job at the state level, or observed anywhere in my contacts with educational institutions. Back in the world of higher education, it was a constant charge and challenge to keep up with new developments through curriculum and course changes in the programs and use advisory committees to assist in the process. As Division Director, it was rewarding to assist prospective students in choosing a discipline and to work with students in the College of Engineering who were faltering to transition to a more applications-oriented program, where they soon were successful. Offering both associate and baccalaureate engineering technology programs contributed significantly to the upward mobility of student-citizens who came not sure they were college material and left making important contributions in their fields.

Post-Career Activities

Since retiring in 2006, I have been able to pursue a number of personal interests. Annually, I coordinate road trips and cruises for family and friends; coordinate family reunions, gatherings, and directories; sing in church choir, Symphony Chorus, and Civic Chorus; play guitar at a weekly jam; host weekly gatherings of local artists in our art studio; construct wood decorative and furniture items in my woodshop (these happen in the 20x30' two-story studio/shop we built in our backyard); coordinate a weekly men’s breakfast group; practice several alternative health modalities; perform weekly Panera bread pick up for a community center; compile photo summaries of trips; have a grow-box garden; coordinate an annual meeting of retired WVU Tech personnel; coordinate special interest trips for friends; administer the national on-line ET directory; and make updates to our home and property. In addition, I am currently writing a book about my line of the Gourleys; renovating a building on our family farm in Virginia to become a retreat and wood workshop for the family; and putting final touches on a 12-song musical for teenagers, called “Haircut”, about Sampson.