The Speed Scientific School was established in 1925 as a memorial to the late James Breckenridge Speed with an endowment by his son and daughter, Dr. William S. Speed and Mrs. Olive Speed Sackett of Louisville. The income from this endowment is used exclusively as a supplementary support for the activities of the school.

James Breckenridge Speed (1844-1912), an industrial pioneer in the City of Louisville , was the scion of an illustrious Kentucky family. He was a leader in the establishment of Louisville 's street railway system. He also developed and operated large coal interests in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and was among the first to recognize the significance that Portland Cement would have in the growth of America . The industries in which he maintained an active interest until his death in 1912 have been a nucleus around which the City of Louisville and its greater metropolitan area have grown to their present stature. It is fitting that his memory is perpetuated in an engineering school that bears his name.

Dr. William S. Speed and Mrs. Olive Speed Sackett contributed generously to the building of the school, having made additional grants toward the erection of the James B. Speed Building, Frederic M. Sackett Hall, and William S. Speed Hall. Mrs. Virginia Speed, wife of Dr. Speed, also contributed gifts and financial support prior to her death in 1969.

In 2003, the J.B. Speed Scientific School officially changed its name to the J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

Dr. Neville G. Pinto was appointed the eighth dean of the J. B. Speed School of Engineering by the U of L Board of Trustees on June 9, 2011. John S. Usher was named acting dean May 11, 2015 and served in that capacity until June 30, 2017. Dr. Gail W. DePuy stepped into the role of interim dean on July 1, 2017.

Dr. Emmanuel G. Collins was appointed by the Board of Trustees on May 17, 2018, as the ninth dean of the Speed School.

Past Deans

Emmanuel G. Collins, DeanJuly 1, 2018 - present
Gail W. DePuy, Interim DeanJuly 1, 2017 - June 30, 2018
John S. Usher, Acting Dean2015 - June 30, 2017
Neville G. Pinto2011 - 2015
Mickey Wilhelm2004 - 2011
Thomas R. Hanley1991-2003
Leo B. Jenkins Jr., Acting Dean1990‑1991
Earl R. Gerhard1980‑1990
Harry C. Saxe1969‑1980
Robert C. Ernst1947‑1969
Ford L. Wilkinson1938‑1947
Bennett M. Brigman1925‑1938