100th Anniversary of "Theater in a Suitcase" Invention Ushers in 2012 National Distance Learning Week

DeVry University’s namesake founder ignited a movement that forever changed the way schools teach and students learn

DOWNERS GROVE, Ill., October 26, 2012

As we observe National Distance Learning Week, November 5-12, DeVry University is proud to celebrate its heritage and legacy by recognizing a defining moment in the school’s history. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Dr. Herman DeVry’s “Theater in a Suitcase” Model E portable movie projector, a technology that pioneered the concept of “visual distance learning” and highlights a timely paradigm shift – the use of technology to facilitate education.

For the first time, moving images, whether of foreign societies in motion or step-by-step instructions for complex tasks, could be distributed to audiences regardless of their location. Fueled by early demand from schools, businesses and churches, variations of DeVry’s 1912 invention would soon become standard equipment in institutions of learning across America. The DeVry Corporation – formed the following year – would sell more than 50,000 units of the Model E and improved versions over the next decades, more than all other makes of similar portable projectors at the time combined.

"DeVry's 1912 silent movie projector was the most advanced education enabling technology of its time," said Michelle Delaney, director of the Smithsonian's Consortium for Understanding the American Experience. "His innovation definitely opened the gateway to the concept of distance learning." DeVry's "Theater in a Suitcase" is part of the Photographic History Collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Dr. DeVry’s invention was the spark that ignited a life-long dedication to advancing technology for distance learning applications. Used first to bring news clips from a European continent on the verge of World War I into classrooms, DeVry’s Model E was quickly seen as a way to provide visual instruction to distant audiences on a variety of subjects—much like streaming video over the Internet enables today’s online student. DeVry’s projector was most commonly used for the detailed instruction of complex repair of the leading technology equipment of the time, such as movie theater projectors and eventually radios in the 1920s.

In 1931, Dr. DeVry teamed up with radio pioneer Lee DeForest to open the DeForest Training School in Chicago, which prepared students for technical work in electronics, motion pictures, radio and, later, television. Compact versions of DeVry’s portable projector were provided to students as “visual instruction” course materials when they enrolled in the school’s programs from remote locations.

DeVry and DeForest’s ability to provide effective distance learning solutions achieved critical status when their institution was chosen to train U.S. Army Air Corps instructors on electronics and radar technology in the 1940s. This proving ground led to the institution being one of the first schools approved to accept the original G.I. Bill following World War II. The school’s name was changed to DeVry Technical Institute in 1953 and then DeVry Institute of Technology in 1968.

After merging with Keller Graduate School of Management in 1987, the institutions collectively became DeVry University in 2002, following the approval of The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Today, Dr. DeVry’s legacy continues as DeVry University has grown to become one of the largest degree-granting higher education institutions in North America.

“Today’s DeVry University is a shining tribute to the vision Herman DeVry had nearly a century ago,” said Dr. Donna Loraine, provost/vice president of academic affairs for DeVry University. “Advancements in technology and flexible scheduling options have since made quality distance learning available to every person with a willingness to learn. Dr. DeVry would be extremely proud of his legacy.”

For more information about DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management, visit https://www.devry.edu.

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About DeVry University 

DeVry University strives to close society’s opportunity gap by preparing learners to thrive in careers shaped by continuous technological change. Founded in 1931, the university offers undergraduate and graduate programs onsite and online within six areas of study: Accounting, Business, Healthcare, Technology, Liberal Arts, and Media Arts & Technology. DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC, www.hlcommission.org/). The university’s Keller Graduate School of Management is included in this accreditation. To learn more, visit devry.edu.

DeVry University is institutionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, www.ncahlc.org. DeVry University, a part of DeVry Inc. (NYSE: DV), is based in Downers Grove, Ill. For more information about DeVry University, find us on Twitter @DeVryUniv, Facebook /DEVRYUNIVERSITY or visit newsroom.devry.edu.


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