Eric W. Tappert, PE
Last time we learned how a simple ring on the little finger of the working hand gave international recognition to the public oath that was taken. The Canadian tradition, dating back to 1925, of a ritual ceremony where engineering graduates take an oath of ethical behavior and responsibility for the public health, safety, and welfare has emerged as being more important to engineering graduates than getting their diploma. The ring is worn with pride by all who receive it.
In the 1960’s interest in promoting the ethical practice of engineering by having a ring ceremony similar to the Canadian tradition stirred some interest. The very first US ring ceremony was held at the Fenn College of Engineering at Cleveland State University on June 4, 1970. Due to copyright reasons, they could not use the “Ritual Calling of an Engineer” by Rudyard Kipling, but a similar “obligation” and ceremony was used. The Order was incorporated in Ohio in 1972.
There are a few differences between the Order of the Engineer and the Canadian tradition besides the actual ceremony. In the US the ceremony is public, and attendance is not limited to the inductees and ring holders. Instead of “camps” the US version has “Links”, of which there are currently more than 300, many at Universities, but some are at various engineering organizations such as PSPE (Link 230). Some of PSPE’s student chapters also have their own links.
The fact that PSPE has a link highlights another difference, getting a ring is not limited to engineering graduates. Any engineer with an ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission accredited degree is eligible. In fact, many engineering organizations, including PSPE, hold regular ring ceremonies. The Order has no dues, in fact the only charge is a nominal amount for the stainless steel ring which is placed during the ceremony on the little finger of the working hand to constantly remind the recipient of their obligation.
The formal ceremony starts with a brief history of the Order, followed by the new inductees being presented. The inductees and members of the Order then recite the Obligation together. Each inductee then signs their copy of the Obligation that they have just made (suitable for framing…) and places their working hand through a large ceremonial ring to receive their ring. The ring serves as a constant reminder of your obligation and indicates to the public that you have made a commitment to the honorable and ethical practice of your profession. As the ceremony is formal, no pictures are allowed, but there is always a picture session afterwards.
The Obligation is a creed similar to Hippocrates Oath taken by medical doctors to set forth an ethical code. It is based on the Canon of Ethics of major engineering societies. Inductees accept this Obligation voluntarily, pledging to uphold the standards and dignity of the engineering profession and to serve humanity by making the best use of Earth’s precious wealth. Full details of the ceremony and Obligation are on the Order’s web site (http://www.order-of-the-engineer.org/).
PSPE holds a ring ceremony every year at the annual conference and has assisted several engineering schools in ring ceremonies, some of which resulted in the formation of new Links. A ceremony will be held at the next annual conference in Bethlehem this September (see details below) and it will use a new ceremonial ring, generously donated by Penn Stainless in Quakertown. It is an ideal opportunity to re-affirm your obligation to uphold the standards of the engineering profession. And just maybe sometime in your travels you’ll be asked if you are Canadian! Better yet, maybe you’ll be recognized for your commitment to the ethical practice of your profession. See you there!
If you would like to join the Order of the Engineer, PSPE is holding a ceremony on Thursday, September 19, 2019, during our annual conference. Register for the full conference, the day, or simply lunch and the ceremony. Indicate your ring size and we’ll see you there. Details can be found here. We look forward to seeing you!