In 1929 William E. Wickenden visited Case School as the commencement speaker and to receive his third honorary degree. In fall 1929, he returned to Case as the third President of the Faculty and served throughout the darkest days of the Depression and World War II. Wickenden was considered a major educational leader and was recognized with a total of eight Honorary degrees for his work as the leader of a survey task force for the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education (SPEE) between 1923 and 1929. The task force was charged with determining the technical manpower needs in America and defining the educational means to achieve them and their report was the foundation for engineering education in the U.S.
Wickenden was an inspirational leader who never wavered in his commitment to the students, faculty and staff of Case. Working closely with the Board of Trustees and Eckstein Case, the Secretary/Treasurer of Case, they executed a conservative fiscal plan, preserving the endowment and physical plant of the school. Surviving the first few years by cautiously spending the accumulated operating surplus, they eventually had to cut salaries and reduce all maintenance expenditures to a minimum. Adding new educational programs, they increased enrollment while holding tuition fixed. The Case School survived the Great Depression through the personal sacrifices of the faculty and staff. Many senior faculty accepted emeriti positions while continuing their teaching and administrative duties. Wickenden led by example by returning a portion of his salary and paying the rent on the presidential home on Bellflower Road. As America emerged from the depression in 1937, Case immediately restored salaries and started the construction of a new Chemistry Building.
At the outbreak of World War II, the entire Case School became immersed in the effort, accelerating its academic calendar, redirecting its research priorities and committing its educational resources to a special version of the Navy’s V-12 program, known as “Little Annapolis.” Faculty accepted special assignments to support the technical efforts, while Wickenden was appointed to the Washington Office of Production Management.
Wickenden’s last major administrative task at the Case School was to guide the faculty and Board of Trustees in the task of changing its name. The title of Engineering School was popular among the larger, more comprehensive Universities, while the institute of technology label was popular among the independent schools.
The Case School prepared for a new era under the leadership of T. Keith Glennan by adopting the name of Case Institute of Technology.