Ricketts was named Director of the Institute by the Board of Trustees in 1892. After David Greene's sudden departure in 1891, several alumni were recommended for the job including C. C. Martin, who declined the position. The Director was essentially head of the faculty and had limited administrative power. During his tenure, Ricketts expanded the curriculum by introducing a course in electrical engineering. He also used his position to increase recognition and support of the Institute through various publicity efforts. One such effort was an exhibit of alumni work at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This later developed into the publication of A Partial Record of the Work of Graduates. Ricketts also published the first of three editions of the History of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1895.