In 1955, UCLA was approached about undertaking a project to assist in the develoment of the “Fakulta Teknik,” or College of Engineering at the Universitas Gadjah Mada in Djogjakarta, Indonesia, which had been formed during the fight for independence from the Dutch and which the Indonesians regarded as the real Indonesian University.
During the 1950 to 1970 time frame, the U.S. Department of State sponsored, through its Foreign Operations Administration and successor agencies, a program supporting the development of universities of developing countries through contracts primarily with the Land Grant Universities of the United States. Dean Rusk, then President of the Rockefeller Foundation (later to be Secretary of State) once called it one of the really good ideas, both in concept and execution, endorsed and supported by the Department. In 1955, UCLA was approached about undertaking such a project to assist in the development of the “Fakultas Teknik,” or college of engineering at the Universitas Gadjah Mada in Djogjakarta, Indonesia, which had been formed during the fight for Independence from the Dutch and which the Indonesians regarded as the real Indonesian University.
UCLA undertook a small exploratory project to evaluate the feasibility of accepting a long term commitment. Professor Thomas E. Hicks was sent to Indonesia for a period of one year to study conditions first-hand at Gadjah Mada, which is located in central Java, while professor William D. Van Vorst remained at UCLA as project coordinator; before coming to UCLA, Van Vorst had spent a year at the University of the Philippines under a similar project sponsored by Stanford University.
A shortage of engineers in Indonesia stemmed partly from the period of Dutch rule, during which only two Indonesians were graduated each year from the country’s only engineering school. In 1949, when Indonesia gained its independence, there were only about 60 Indonesian engineers in a nation of 82 million people. During the struggle for independence, Gadjah Mada president M. Sardjito, a physician, maintained a mobile medical facility with the Indonesian revolutionary forces, and in 1947 founded Gadjah Mada in the city of Djogjakarta.
After a year’s living experience in Indonesia, although sometimes under difficult conditions for his wife and him, professor Hicks returned and recommended undertaking a longer term relation with Gadjah Mada and the University did so. The objectives of the new program revolved around development of Gadjah Mada along the lines of U.S. universities. The UCLA College of Engineering’s response was to offer assistance in: the development of faculty through the careful selection of candidates for further education in the United States; modification of courses, programs and degree requirements for their departments of engineering and physical sciences; enhancement of their physical facilities, primarily laboratory equipment and library acquisitions; and encouragement of research of an applied nature, consistent with the needs and problems of developing nations.
More than a dozen faculty were sent to Gadjah Mada in the next eight years, developing a university that, at the completion of UCLA’s involvement in 1965, was producing more than 100 engineers each year. Many of the Indonesian participants remained with the University, or entered government service, while some became department chairs or deans, and even president of the university. One notable participant became the chair of the equivalent of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and has been honored by several nations, and another project participant serves in the Directorate for Higher Education in the Ministry of Education.
Some of the professors participating in the project included L.M.K. Boelter, Thomas E. Hicks, Jacob P. Frankel, William J. Knapp, Philip F. O’Brien, Wesley L. Orr, Russell L. Perry, and William D. Van Vorst.