A Brief History of the PEO and the NSPE, by Ralph Yenne, PE, Past President, Professional Engineers of Oregon:
PEO began in 1929, a few years before the 1934 creation of NSPE. Unlike other state societies that grew out of NSPE (such as Washington State’s WSPE), PEO had an independent charter and did not derive its authority from NSPE. In fact, PEO was one of the last five states holding back from becoming an NSPE affiliate.
A 1953 vote by the PEO general membership rejected affiliation, but by 1958 NSPE was sufficiently persuasive to the officers of PEO that they successfully persuaded the membership to vote for affiliation. At that time PEO retained the ability to have PEO only members up to 25% of the number of NSPE members Oregon would have. Verbally, Oregon was assured that state societies maintain their sovereignty in choosing how many non-voting associate or junior members they wish to enroll.
At the May annual meeting held in Hood River, then NSPE President Jack Hinton asserted that Oregon was not allowed to have any option and put Oregon on notice that if an engineer is eligible for membership in NSPE, a PEO member must belong to both NSPE and PEO. Thus Oregon’s support of the Membership Initiative.
Currently, PEO performs three major functions in Oregon:
1. We act as the conduit of information within the membership and between the members and the outside world. That outside world includes the legislature, licensing board (OSBEELS), the universities and major employers, as well as with other state societies and organizations. In that regard, we act as the collective voice of our members, and take positions on issues to advance the aims of practicing licensed engineers.
2. We work as a fraternal organization, encouraging networking between engineers and promoting the sharing of ideas both within the profession, as well as providing a venue for social activities.
3. We function as teachers, organizing and disseminating information about the profession, licensure, education requirements, sharing math and science with students and otherwise de-mystify the realm of engineers in society.
Oregon now offers both the Fundamental Exam and Professional exams in numerous countries, particularly Japan, Korea, and Malaysia. Obtaining a professional license in the United States is a means to become and remain competitive in the world-wide engineering market for these off-shore engineers. The worldwide engineers are becoming increasingly successful in obtaining full licensure as Oregon PEs taking the rigorous exams in English–a second language for all of them.
PEO has opened its doors and offered full membership to the qualified Oregon PEs, offering them the option of state-only or full NSPE/PEO membership.