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A crowd of hundreds joined Pratt Institute Chief Engineer Conrad Milster as he blew his historic collection of steam whistles for the final time on New Year’s Eve, marking the end of a 50-year tradition on the Brooklyn campus and filling the air with sound and clouds of white steam at the stroke of midnight to start the new year.

Though 2014 was the final year for the steam whistle ceremony, Milster will continue in his position as the Institute’s chief engineer. The ceremony is separate from Milster’s work at Pratt. The ending of the tradition was a mutual decision between Milster and the Institute. Pratt shuts down its campus operations every year from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day, which does not allow the Institute to provide appropriate staffing for a public event during this timeframe.

Revelers who attended the festivities and campus passersby were treated to the sounds of about a dozen antique steam whistles from railroads, factories, and ships, and a steam-powered calliope that Milster built in 1999. The collection included a steam whistle from the SS Normandie, a sleek Art Deco ocean liner from the 1930s that was the precursor of the Queen Mary.

All were connected by pipes to the Institute’s historic power plant, which has been designated a National Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. As chief engineer, Milster runs the power plant, which supplies heat for the entire Brooklyn campus and is a source of fascination for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. Milster has spent virtually his entire adult life at Pratt, becoming one of only four chief engineers in the Institute’s 127-year history. The ceremony was covered extensively in the press, including The New York Times, NY1, and The New York Daily News.

An important figure in Pratt’s history, Milster has extended his impact on the Pratt community through a generous gift—the Phyllis and Conrad Milster Endowed Scholarship—that provides scholarships in perpetuity to students in Pratt’s Industrial Design program.

The scholarship is named for Milster and his late wife, Phyllis, who worked at Pratt from the late 1960s until her retirement in 2004. Those interested in honoring Milster may donate to his scholarship fund through Pratt’s secure online giving page at www.pratt.edu/give. Please indicate Phyllis and Conrad Milster Endowed Scholarship under Special Instructions. For more information, contact Pratt’s Division of Institutional Advancement at 718.230.6810.

Images: 2014 Steam Whistle ceremony on Brooklyn campus (photo: Sam Stuart)