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Donor Features

The alumni of the Tickle College of Engineering have showcased their support for the University in a variety of different ways. Check out some of their stories below.



Nancy C. ColeNancy C. Cole (BS/63, MS/88 Metallurgical) is the President of NCC Engineering. Nancy has spent more than a decade in research and development and another 17 years in fabrication, non-destructive evaluation, and repair. She began her career in corrosion of materials at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and later joined the Welding and Brazing Lab at ORNL.

Nancy and her husband created the Nancy and Leon Cole Outstanding Teacher Award, an annual teaching award to an outstanding engineering faculty member, which has been awarded annually for over 20 years. The intent of the award is to reward outstanding teaching in engineering to encourage teaching at a high level of excellence so that future engineers have the necessary skills to solve the world’s major problems.

As the first female to graduate from UT with a degree in metallurgical engineering, the first female to graduate from the co-op program, and the first female to receive the Nathan W. Dougherty Award from the Tickle College of Engineering, Nancy is doing a lot of firsts for women.

Nancy hopes that the Teacher Award will highlight the importance of excellence in teaching that elevates the students’ learning opportunities. With the university’s necessary emphasis on research, she also hopes to showcase teachers that keep the student’s experience in the forefront. Many successful leaders can point to a teacher that made a difference in their life.

Harold T. Conner, Jr.Dr. Harold T. Conner, Jr., received his BS ’68 and MS ’78 in Chemical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Alabama-Huntsville. Harold was named the UCOR Nuclear Services and Engineering Manager in April 2015 and joins the Oak Ridge team after serving as the Associate Director for Facilities & Infrastructure at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for over eight years. For more than 45 years, Harold has served as an executive helping support and maintain our nation’s nuclear deterrent through his work with some of our most prominent national labs, production sites, and defense contractors including Union Carbide, Martin Marietta, Lockheed Martin, Westinghouse, URS, and now AECOM.

Throughout his career, Harold has shown excellent leadership. He follows the leadership challenge of Kouzes and Posner and practices the steps daily: challenge the process; inspire a shared vision; enable others to act; model the way; and encourage the heart. He leads by example and is a proud alum of UT. Harold has received numerous awards/recognition during his career. He is most proud that in 2014, he received the UT Alumni Professional Achievement Award for the high level of success he has achieved in his career.

In 2014, Harold and his wife, Joyce, created the Dr. Harold T. Conner, Jr. Endowed Scholarship in the Tickle College of Engineering. By funding this scholarship, he is continuing the family tradition of encouraging higher education and academic excellence. The University of Tennessee at Martin offers a scholarship in his father’s name. The scholarship named for Harold T. Conner, Sr., the Harold Conner Scholars Program, was designed to offer financial assistance to those students who show academic promise. Harold hopes that his endowed scholarship will allow engineering students the opportunity to interact with people in industry outside of UT while they complete their degree. As a co-op student himself while at UT, Harold knows that for young deserving students, gaining experience and creating industry connections are indispensable to their future careers.

Joseph C. Cook, Jr.Joseph (Joe) C. Cook Jr. (BS/IE ’65) is extremely selective in the charities and organizations he serves. However, he found time to support his alma mater in a meaningful and substantial way through his giving and leadership at UT. Joe is a leader in the Tennessee community as well as at UT.

He is a longtime member of the college’s Board of Advisors where he counsels the Dean of Engineering and advises college officials on decisions and programs. Outside of UT, Joe co-founded Mountain Group Capital, LLC, a Tennessee-based private equity firm, where he continues to serve as a principal.

Joe balances his personal interests with giving back to the Tickle College of Engineering. His allegiance and service to UT is revealed by his consistent participation and focused leadership. As the 2008 Commencement speaker, Cook’s challenge to the graduating seniors included a call for them to live and work with the highest standards, to give back in service, to stay connected, and to demonstrate stewardship for those who follow. Cook shows these characteristics in all corners of his life.

In 1997, Cook and his wife, Judy, created the Judith E. and Joseph C. Cook Jr. Engineering Scholarship Endowment. The Cook’s began an engineering scholarship because they wanted to help others get an excellent education, and they have helped over 58 engineering students since then. Over the years, the Cook’s have added to the funds of this endowment as well as supported other Tickle College of Engineering Funds in order to help future students.

Michael DoddMichael D. Dodd (BS/EE ’95) is an engineer at Google, Inc. in Kirkland, Washington. He has spent his career in technology companies including Apple and Microsoft before joining Google in 2010. Mike got interested in engineering when he started teaching himself to program computers as a kid. He knew he wanted to continue working on software and his curriculum in electrical engineering taught him the important fundamentals of math, signal processing, and how computers worked, which he has applied to his career.

In 2010, Mike and his wife, Meredith, created the Michael D. Dodd Engineering Scholarship. The scholarship is available to any student enrolled in the Tickle College of Engineering with financial need who demonstrates successful academic performance. Mike’s interest in giving back stemmed from his own time at UT. After transferring to UT, Mike would not have been able to complete his degree without the financial assistance he received. Thanks to this support, Mike had the opportunity to learn as much as he could from his professors in electrical engineering and his college experience surpassed his expectations.

“My hope is that this scholarship can help someone who is tight on money get through school without having to worry quite as much about paying for it,” said Mike. “Then [they can] go change the world.”

Mike also is a stalwart supporter of Systers: Women in EECS, a relatively new student organization that seeks to recruit, mentor, and retain women in the EECS department.

“My industry has a shockingly low number of women participating,” explains Mike. “It’s so important that we get more women into ECE and I’m hopeful that Systers can help with this.”

William and Jenny EversoleWilliam (Bill) L. Eversole (BS/EE ’73), CEO of Bandspeed, Inc., a startup company with Texas Instruments, credits UT with providing him with a strong engineering education and the training to advance in his career.

“My engineering degree has provided me the core EE skills and problem solving techniques that I still use today. The education I received has served me well,” Bill says.

In turn, Bill has served the Tickle College of Engineering well. Standing on the Board of Advisors, Bill has kept in touch with his alma mater. In exchange for giving his time back to the college, Bill gets to keep up with what the engineering departments are doing and have a say in the future of the college.

In 2010, Bill and his wife, Jenny, committed to an estate gift that will be used for electrical engineering at UT in the future. Bill and Jenny have supported the Dean’s Endowed Faculty Fund for Engineering, which supports the Cook-Eversole Professor at UT held by Dr. Mongi Abidi. Their strong commitment is to ensure a strong faculty to help create strong leaders.

Bill believes, “To achieve our goal of being a Top 25 university, we need everyone’s time, talent and financial support. The costs of providing an engineering education is far greater than the tuition and fees we paid while in school. To have a world class faculty and facility requires everyone to give back.”

Bill and Jenny support UT because the university makes a difference in people’s lives. A world class education, as Bill received from UT, is a tremendous differentiator in the job market. They know that by giving back they are supporting future students.

James GibsonJames G. Gibson (BS/IE ’71) is retired from the tubing manufacturing business. Jim is the former president and owner of Gibson Tube, which was founded by his family in 1962. After selling the company in 1999, Jim established Pressure Tube Manufacturing, LLC, a new tubing products company. He then sold Pressure Tube Manufacturing, and now manages his family farm in New Jersey.

As a passionate supporter of the University of Tennessee, Jim’s support of the Tickle College of Engineering has been making a difference throughout the college. In 2013, he established the Gibson Chair in Engineering. This endowed Chair in the Tickle College of Engineering will be awarded to a senior-level professor whose research is focused on the world’s energy challenge. It is important to recruit faculty to the college who are outstanding teachers and researchers to provide students with the best resources possible.

The first Gibson Chair at UT was announced in August 2014 and Dr. Stephen Paddison, professor in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, holds this honor in the college.

“Over the past several years I have met some of UT’s incredible young graduate students and have seen their research presentations,” states Gibson. “Their enthusiasm and dedication gives me great hope for the future. They inspire me and my intent is to help the college bring in more great professors who will continue to inspire students.”

Kimberly GreeneKimberly (Kim) S. Greene (BS/ES ’88) is Executive Vice President and Chief Opearting Officer at Southern Company. Kim began her career in 1991 as a mechanical engineer at Southern Company and swiftly climbed the corporate ladder. Spending time at TVA as Executive Vice President and Chief Generation Officer, her technical and leadership ability combined with a strong work ethic has propelled her to fast-paced advancement.

In 2010, Kim created the Kimberly Scheibe Greene Endowed Engineering Scholarship. The intent of the scholarship is to foster diversity in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tickle College of Engineering, with an emphasis in promoting women in the field. Although the scholarship will not always be awarded to women, it is Kim’s hope that young women will be inspired to see their own potential as engineers and as leaders.

Kim hopes that this scholarship will make a difference to at least one student who will choose to continue the cycle of giving at a time that’s right for them.

“I was fortunate to have received some scholarship money when I was a student. Now I feel an obligation to do the same for others that was done for me,” Kim states.

As a successful engineering graduate, Kim recognizes that she is a model for other women who want to explore engineering careers. Featured as the 2009 Commencement speaker, Kim challenged the new graduates to seize every opportunity, illustrating that even a perceived failure can provide an opening for the future. She also recieved UT’s 2014 Distinguished Alumna Award, the highest alumni award at UT that recognizes those who have attained extraordinary distinctino in their field.

Kim recognizes the important role a solid engineering education plays in giving women in engineering a head start. She gives back to her alma mater because of her belief in the value of higher education. Holding a position in the Board of Advisors for Engineering, Kim is able to provide the Dean of Engineering input and advice on college initiatives and remain a strong advocate for continued diversity at UT.

Dr. Min H. KaoDr. Min H. Kao (MS/EE ’74, PhD/EE ’77), Chairman, CEO and cofounder of Garmin Ltd., came to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. Kao said he looks back at his first moments on campus as something of a ‘culture shock’ as he was coming all the way from Taiwan. He adapted though, and soon began to thrive as he explored the possibilities of electrical engineering.

In 2005, inspired by his former EE mentor and advisor, the late James C. Hung, Kao and his wife, Yu-Fan, made a donation to the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science to be used directly in the creation of a new facility for the department. In addition to this gift, the Kao’s also made a donation to be used for scholarships, fellowships, and professorships in the EECS department.

Every gift can be life changing. The Kao’s gift allowed EECS to update its facilities and labs and solidify its department. Prior to the Kao’s donations, EECS was spread across five different buildings on campus, and now EECS is housed in one building.

Kao is honored to be able to give back to the college that prepared him for his career. Even forty years after graduating, Kao still feels a close connection with UT, and of course his engineering home, Ferris Hall. For him, the university inspired great thinking and was where he gained valuable knowledge. In giving back to the university, Kao hopes to open the door for future engineering students to enjoy a similar life-changing experience.

James R. McKinleyJames (Jim) R. McKinley (BS/ChE ’77) is a retired executive from ExxonMobil Chemical Company. With almost forty years of experience in the industry Jim recognizes the importance of future engineers in turning challenges into opportunities, resulting in a world that is a better place to live. Jim’s career greatly benefited from his education and cooperative engineering experience, and as such, Jim and his wife, Sändra, have chosen to help future UT engineering students through support funds at the college.

In 2002, the McKinley’s created the Jim and Sändra McKinley Scholarship Fund in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The scholarship is available to graduate students in Chemical Engineering that show a high degree of effort and hard work in their studies. Nine students have benefited from this scholarship fund since its creation.

In 2009, they created the Jim and Sändra McKinley Engage Program Endowment, which is one of seven endowments that support our freshman engineering program. Their endowment has supported faculty and student travel, general program supplies, and software and computer port charges, necessary costs to running a successful program.

Jim and Sändra are devoted to providing the next generation of students a quality education with a strong focus on science and math, the tools needed to be successful in the technologically advanced world in which we live. Their generous support at both the undergraduate and graduate level is ensuring just that. Now that Jim is retired he plans to be even more involved in the Tickle College of Engineering and do his small part in providing the foundation for success well into the future.

Barbara Pemberton and FamilyDr. Barbara Pemberton (BS/ Mathematics ’69) has a heart for helping engineering students. This is evident from the Ralph C. and Ardona Boles, Jr. Nuclear Engineering Endowed Scholarship. She and her parents established the endowment in honor of her brother, Ralph, and sister-in-law, Ardona.

Dr. Pemberton is currently a systems engineer for training systems acquisition and a faculty member of Faith Institute. Ralph Jr.’s mother, Willie Mae Boles, was an elementary school teacher for 28 years and his father, Dr. Ralph C. Boles, was chairman of the mathematics department at Tennessee Tech University.

Together the family is leaving a legacy for students following in Ralph Jr.’s footsteps. The scholarship goes to high achieving junior or seniors in the Department of Nuclear Engineering. Willie Mae, now deceased, wished for some of her estate to go towards remembering the great things her son did in his life, and Dr. Pemberton made sure to follow her mother’s desire to do so.

Ralph Jr. was a 1966 graduate of nuclear engineering at UT and Ardona was a math student of UT. Ralph Jr.’s nuclear engineering career started in Virginia with the first nuclear carrier, the Nimitz. He utilized his nuclear engineering degree over 34 years. Ralph and Ardona’s two sons, Ralph and Roger, both attended UT as well, and Roger is now a nuclear engineer. Ralph and Ardona are pictured here with their family.

J. Michael StoneMichael (Mike) Stone (BS/ChemE ’63), owner of Blue Water Partners, LLC, believes leadership and business skills are important for all engineers. After completing his engineering degree at UT, Mike took a two-year business correspondence course which gave him great insight into the need for engineers to have a business background. Later, through self-study, he significantly improved his financial skills. This broadening of his knowledge created career opportunities which otherwise would have never developed.

In 2010, Mike established the John W. Prados Chemical Engineering Co-Op Scholarship Fund and added to the Dr. John Prados Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering Endowed Professorship. The Prados Scholarship is available to four engineering students each year who are majoring in Chemical Engineering, minoring in Business and participating in the engineering co-op program.

Mike has high hopes for his scholarship recipients. “I want to be able to instill in [the students] a strong and enduring drive to acquire knowledge throughout [their] life, so [they] will be able to fully achieve [their] potential,” says Mike Stone.

He wishes to reward chemical engineering students who have the maturity and foresight to realize that business knowledge in combination with their engineering skills will make them much more valuable and productive throughout their career. Mike also hopes that eventually the recipients of these scholarships will be inspired to help others.

Mike gives back to recognize Dr. Prados, an influential and dedicated faculty member during his time at the college. Dr. Prados has a lifetime commitment to the university, the students, and the profession, and Mike is supporting that same commitment.

In 2014, Mike also created the J. Michael Stone Engineering Professional Practice Leadership Program to facilitate the growth in leadership skills for the students in the co-op program.

John TickleJohn D. Tickle, Sr. (BS/IE ’65) is the majority owner of Strongwell Corporation headquartered in Bristol, Virginia. Since joining the company as its President in 1972 when it was small and struggling, John has built the company into the largest and most successful company in its industry. Strongwell manufactures structural products from fiber reinforced polymers which are used around the world in ladders, buildings, bridges, military applications and much more. Companies such as John’s are what sustain the U.S. during the current tumultuous economic climate.

John has not just been a leader at Strongwell. He has played a major leadership role in many community projects and charities in Upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and in the industry organizations of which Strongwell is a part. His inclination to leadership is also demonstrated in John’s commitment to UT. He is a strong advocate for higher education and UT receives significant support from John. He believes, “Education is critical to the U.S. to continue our world role. There is no substitute for it. UT is a good school and makes Tennessee citizens and Tennessee better.”

John and his wife, Ann, recently funded the John D. Tickle Building, which will house the departments of civil and environmental engineering and industrial and systems engineering. In addition to the new engineering building, John supports many other funds in the Tickle College of Engineering, including Engineering Faculty Chairs & Professorships and the Industrial Engineering Enrichment Fund. Private donations, like those received from the Tickles make great things possible across campus and prepare our great future leaders.

Spike TickleSpike Tickle (BS/IE ’87) believes that critical thinking, a skill taught through the engineering curriculum at UT, is the key to global competitiveness.

As a student at UT, Spike explored a variety of subjects, not just engineering. He began college majoring in biology with the intention of going through the pre-med curriculum. After careful consideration though, he switched to industrial engineering which focused more on problem solving and critical thinking skills. Industrial engineering touched on many aspects of engineering and encouraged students to take humanities courses too.

After graduating, starting a family, and changing jobs, Spike chose to give back to UT. “It’s a personal decision to give back to your alma mater,” Spike says. “Any gift to UT can make an impact on the future of our students and our country.”

After a discussion with Bruce Bursten, former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Spike chose a gift that would have the biggest and most immediate impact. Spike and his wife, Lisa, established the Spike Tickle STEM Engineering Fellowship Endowment. This endowment is intended to attract outstanding graduate students to both the College of Arts and Sciences and the Tickle College of Engineering. Top graduate students will in turn attract excellent professors.

In addition to giving back financially to UT, Spike also commits a good portion of his personal time. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Tickle College of Engineering among other committees for UT.

“What Dr. Davis is doing for engineering is so admirable,” Spike says. “I really appreciate what he is doing, and at least as an alumnus I can help him, even if only in a small way [by being on the board].”

Both ways of giving back, Spike believes, are great ways to stay connected and informed with what is going on at UT and in the college.

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