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Capitol Technology University's Recounts its History with Radio Engineering for National Radio Day

August 20, 2020

Today is National Radio Day and, as an institution that started as Capitol Radio Engineering Institute (CREI) in 1927, Capitol Technology University has a long history of celebrating the technology behind radios.


Capitol Tech’s heritage began modestly as a correspondence school. Correspondence schools were not new. Many of them promised a lot, but delivered little. CREI was different. How CREI managed to flourish during the Great Depression when the rest of the country was desperately struggling is a testimony of what can be done, being in the right place at the right time with the right idea, and the possibilities of radio engineering. The CREI correspondence program, consisting of students engaged in “distance learning” across the country, came to include a residence division in 1932. Many young men were looking for something to do that could lead to steady employment or reliable self-employment. The photo shows CREI’s first public location in Washington D.C., at 3166 16th St. NW in 1935. A few years later due to the expansion of the residence program they moved up the street to a bigger building at 3220 16th NW.

Over the years, studying radio engineering with CREI helped thousands to realize their ambitions. WWII dramatically increased the need for certified, well trained radio engineers, technicians, and operators. CREI was in the midst of assisting in the war efforts by provided training for thousands of military members from all branches.

After the war, CREI went through more changes. In 1964, the correspondence portion was sold to McGraw Hill and what was the residence school became the non-profit named Capitol Institute of Technology (CIT). The first CIT commencement took place in 1966 when 4 Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering Technology degrees were awarded. Prior to this time the highest degree awarded was an associates degree. CIT soon out grew the old CREI facilities and the campus moved to Kensington, Maryland in 1969.

From 1927 until 1983, Capitol had a singular focus that gradually evolved from radio engineering to electronics engineering technology, but it all started with radio. In 1983 the mission became tied with information technology when the campus moved again, this time to the permanent home on the site of the old Beltsville Speedway. Many changes in curriculum and additions of new degrees further expanded what Capitol Institute was and what it was becoming. Capitol the Institute was becoming a college and in 1987 the board of trustees changed the name to Capitol College. In 1989 Capitol added residence halls, but with more space than the CREI had ever had. The following year Capitol established a graduate school and the seeds for becoming a university were planted. In 1994 Capitol opened the Distance Learning Center extending the reach and influence of the school far beyond the Laurel campus. Further demonstrating our commitment to higher learning, in 1997 Capitol opened the John G. and Beverly A. Puente Library. More growth, expansion, and new degree programs followed and in 2005 Capitol College opened the William G. McGowan Academic Center. In 2010, twenty years after establishing the graduate school, Capitol began a doctoral program that was delivered almost entirely online. This set the stage for another transformation at Capitol, the change to Capitol Technology University in 2014.

>What started as an idea in the mind of a radio engineering instructor for the navy, became an institute changing lives for so many. That institute became a college that changed the lives and provided opportunities for many more. Now a respected university rooted in a tradition of excellence, Capitol Tech faces the future well equipped to launch and advance the careers of bright men and women, to help them meet the challenges of a world so much in need of what Capitol has to offer. Capitol Technology University still in the right place, at the right time, with the right idea.

Click here to learn more about Capitol Tech's current engineering programs, which evolved over nearly 100 years from the CREI's initial foray into teaching electronics engineering with tube radios to the current future-focused programs spanning multiple industries.