A 2011 photo of several members of the famed “Barn Gang,” a group of longtime Engineers Club of Dayton members who meet most Tuesdays for lunch, fellowship and education.
Photo: Jim Noelker/Staff
Photo: Jim Noelker/Staff

Home to ‘Dayton’s brain trust of leaders’ turns 100

Engineers Club of Dayton celebrates home of 100 years

On Feb. 2, the Engineers Club of Dayton will celebrate a home that has served it well for 100 years.

It’s the centennial not of the club itself — whose members started meeting in 1914 — but of the landmark Georgian-style building at 110 E. Monument, just south of Monument Avenue and the Great Miami River.

That familiar location just off the river is no accident. A century ago, the site was mostly residential, and club founders wanted to send nervous, weary residents a reassuring message five years after the Great Flood of 1913 — a signal that they trusted the flood-prevention work of the fledgling Miami Conservancy District, protecting buildings even that close to the river.

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“The building, where it stands is important as to why we are here,” said Mitch Heaton, president of the club’s board of governors and a vice president with the Dayton Development Coalition.

Today, the building is home to 13 employees and 442 members.

“It was a natural spot to migrate to,” said Harry Seifert, a club member of 50 years. “All the engineers involved in flood control were working in the area.”

Emily Fehrman Cory, a University of Dayton electro-optics graduate and now a full-time UD faculty member, sees the club as a place for mentorship, a place where young engineers can grow with guidance.

In fact, she said she doesn’t see how anyone can care about Dayton and not somehow be associated with the club.

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“When you have this brain trust of leaders in one place, naturally, we’re talking about what is the next big thing, what do we need to be doing in our community to make sure that it’s sustainable, that it survives,” Fehrman Cory said.

The club and the building are also home to the self-proclaimed “barn gang” — so named after Charles Kettering and Edward Deeds’ formative tinkering as moonlighting engineers in a barn. The modern-day gang meets most Tuesdays for lunch, fellowship and talks from invited guests.

Dayton a century ago was a leading area for securing patents for ground-breaking inventions, said longtime club (and barn gang) member Walt Hoy.

“We were the Silicon Valley of the United States,” Hoy said. “We’d like to go back there.”

But members aren’t all engineers or patent-laden inventors, notes Steve Smith, secretary to the club’s board. When club leaders recruit new members, they take pains to note that the club calls as members doctors, lawyers and professional of all stripes.

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“It’s been a club of professionals, I’d say,” Smith said. “We’ve considered changing the name many times, but we always come back to the legacy.”

True to their roots, club members also focus on education and the support of STEM — the teaching of science, technology, engineering and math to the next generation.

Club members support Tech Fest, a STEM-oriented weekend of activities set for Feb. 17-18 at Sinclair Community College’s Building 12. Some 25 club members are expected to be there, and the club will also have a booth.

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There are also “Science Saturdays” once a month in the club’s auditorium.

“I feel like the Dayton region has been doing STEM education since before it was cool,” Heaton said.

Ben Lambers, an engineer and club member, says the club is more than a place for professionals to rub elbows.

“It’s just a place to bring your family,” Lambers said. “We come here for Sunday brunch, it’s a great place to have your family and bring your kids.”

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