Co-Op History

A Brief History of Cooperative Education at Mississippi State University

Harry C. Simrall Ben F. Hilbun

In 1954 Harry C. Simrall, then Dean of Engineering, empanelled a group of prominent engineers to advise the School of Engineering. That committee, having reviewed Cooperative Education, a unique educational program initiated at the University of Cincinnati in 1906, strongly recommended that Mississippi State College adopt such a program.

With the Committee's recommendation, a request went forth from President Ben F. Hilbun to the Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning requesting approval to establish a Cooperative Education Program at Mississippi State College. In December 1954, the Board of Trustees approved establishment of the program. Dr. T. K. Martin, Assistant to the President, was designated as the Program's first administrator. The letter of authorization for the Cooperative Education Program that went to Dr. Martin from President Hilbun appears below.


The first Cooperative Education enrollment for work was in the summer of 1955, when Civil Engineering student, John E. Pearson, Jr., started working with Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula. By fall 1955, there were six students at work. They worked in Tupelo, with Rockwell Manufacturing; in Jackson, with the State Highway Department; in Natchez, with the Armstrong Rubber Company; in Vicksburg, with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers; and in Corinth, with the Corinth Machinery Company. Edgar Allen, III was the first Program graduate in the spring of 1959.

Dr. T.K. Martin

In 1958, program administration was transferred from Dr. Martin to the Engineering Extension Service in the School of Engineering. Frank E. Cotton, Jr. was that units first full-time Director. The offices relocated to Walker Engineering Building when that building was opened in the fall of 1961. James W. Tennyson became the first full-time Director of Cooperative Education in 1964.

James W. Tennyson

By 1968 the Program had grown to an enrollment that required an improved process for information management. It was then that a unique and comprehensive tracking and information management system began development. Its uniqueness led to several years of federal grants during which time the basics of the Mississippi State system were taught to Cooperative Education professionals in other schools throughout the United States. Development of that system has continued until today where it remains a benchmark. In 1979 Dr. Luther B. Epting became the Program's Director. To meet the needs of additional growth, the Program introduced Cooperative Education Interview Days in 1983. That system prioritizes and matches interests of students with needs of employers in a 3 or 4 day interviewing period. It is conducted during the fall and spring semesters each year. In 2003, offices were moved to their current location in Room 335, McCain Hall.

Frank E. Cotton, Jr. Dr. Luther B. Epting

By the Program's 54th year in 2009, Co-op students totaled 11,047. Engineering was the highest with 6,483. Historic student-reported earnings totaled $162,754,290. Earnings for the previous year totaled $6,275,243. Cooperative Education is currently available to all qualified students and includes mandatory programs in Golf and Sports Turf Management, Integrated Pest Management, and Professional Golf Management.

Mississippi State University is proud to be among the nations leading Cooperative Education institutions. It has one of the few Cooperative Education Programs currently accredited in the United States.