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History of the College

The college’s origins date back to the 1800s, with the first engineering classes offered in 1838. Outstanding teachers and educators, innovative researchers, and transforming innovations are all part of engineering’s amazing journey at UT.

Engineering was initially located in Reese Hall in 1888. Ten years later, classes were moved to Estabrook Hall. Over the next one hundred twenty-five years, engineering moved from literally powering to intellectually powering the university. Currently, the college spans twelve buildings and stretches from the area north of Cumberland Avenue to Neyland Drive. The newest facility, the John D. Tickle Engineering Building, was dedicated in October of 2013. The growing college serves the educational and research goals of nearly four thousand students, faculty, and staff.

The college’s progress in science and technology travels from the early courses in surveying and mechanical engineering to achievements that include internationally acclaimed initiatives in renewable energy; the development of microchips that helped to create the Curiosity Mars Rover, the most innovative outer-space probe in modern history; unique revolutions in computer software; and the discovery of advanced techniques in materials engineering.

The college’s most impressive achievements, however, are the thousands of young men and women who have received their engineering education at UT and have gone on to successful futures and the unlimited contributions that they have made to their communities, the nation, and the world.

1826 – The UT Board of Trustees purchases “The Hill.”

1834 – Joesph Estabrook, a man of strong scientific interest and background, becomes the president of East Tennessee College. Estabrook hires a group of distinguished professors to provide instruction in chemistry, geology, mineralogy, trigonometry, and civil engineering. An engineering subject, Surveying, is offered for the first time.

1840 – East Tennessee College is renamed East Tennessee University by the state legislature and courses in civil engineering are offered for the first time.

1869 – The university is designated as the state’s public land-grant institution in accordance with the Morrill Land Grant Act, signed in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln.

Photo of the Hill from 1877

1877 – The college is organized into three schools: Agriculture and the Organic Arts; Mechanic Arts, Mining, and Engineering; and Languages and Fine Arts. Courses are offered in mechanical and mining

1879 – The Tennessee State Legislature officially names the institution The University of Tennessee and authorizes the granting of advanced degrees in both civil and mining engineering.

Early College Graduates

1880 – Four-year bachelor’s degrees are offered in civil, mechanical, and mining engineering.

1895 – The electrical engineering program is established.

1898 – Estabrook Hall is constructed initially to house the departments of Mechanical Engineering and Mechanic Arts.

1905 – The engineering academic unit is renamed the College of Engineering, with Professor Charles A. Perkins as chairman of the faculty.

1907 – Charles Edward Ferris: 1907-1940
During Professor Ferris’ tenure as the first dean of engineering, the Department of Chemical Engineering was established and Dean Ferris gained national prominence by funding one of the country’s first cooperative engineering programs. Following his retirement from the deanship, Professor Ferris remained at the university to found the Department of Industrial Engineering and to complete fifty years of service to UT.

The Tickle College of Engineering's First Engineers Day

1912 – The college holds its first Engineers Day. The event was initially established for students to help clean up the campus.

1926 – The Cooperative Engineering Program (now the Engineering Professional Practice Program) is established in the Tickle College of Engineering. The program offers students an opportunity to combine both academic study and professional work experience.

1930 – Ferris Hall is built, named after Charles E. Ferris, the first dean of the Tickle College of Engineering and founder of the TCE’s Cooperative Engineering Program. The building formerly housed the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The Department of Materials Science and Engineering relocated to Ferris in 2012.

1936 – The Department of Chemical Engineering is established.

1940 – Nathan Washington Dougherty: 1940-1956
A man of many interests and talents, Dean Dougherty was well known for his service to the field of athletics, both at the university and in the Southeast. Dean Dougherty served as president of the old Southern Conference. He also helped organize the present Southeastern Conference and served as its first secretary-treasurer. During his sixteen-year administration as dean, the college experienced phenomenal growth in numbers of students and faculty, physical facilities, scope of course offerings, and external research activities. The Nathan W. Dougherty Engineering Building was dedicated in Dean Dougherty’s honor on June 6, 1964.

1947 – The Department of Industrial Engineering is established.

1949 – Perkins Hall is constructed, named after Charles A. Perkins, chair of the engineering department before it was established as a separate college in 1877. The building currently houses all TCE administrative offices as well as the Jerry E. Stoneking Engage Freshman Engineering Program, Engineering Advising Office, the Cook Grand Challenge Honors Program, the Engineering Professional Practice Office, and the Office of Engineering Diversity Programs. Perkins Hall is also home to faculty in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering and laboratories for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Reliability and Maintainability Center.

Researchers in a Chemical Engineering Lab

1951 – The university’s Board of Trustees authorizes the granting of PhD degrees with majors in chemical engineering and in metallurgy—the first engineering doctoral degrees in Tennessee.

1956 – Armor T. Granger: 1956-1965
Dean Granger’s contributions to the university, the community, and the engineering profession were numerous. His two greatest loves – students and teaching –  became his most memorable legacies. The Armor T. Granger Professorship was established in his honor.

1957 – A doctoral program in metallurgy is added to support the growing involvement with the university in cooperative projects with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the US Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

1957 – The Department of Nuclear Engineering is established.

1963 – The Dougherty Engineering Building is constructed, named for Nathan Dougherty, former dean of the TCE. The facility is currently home to two academic departments: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering.

UTSI is Announced at Arnold Engineering Development Center

1964– The UT Space Institute is established from the resident graduate programs at the Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

1965 – Charles H. Weaver: 1965-1968
Weaver made many significant contributions to the college. One of his primary goals was to link the mission of the college to the needs of industry. Student enrollments and research activities escalated under Dean Weaver’s guidance. As the university’s first chancellor, Weaver was charged with the responsibility for all teaching, research, and public service programs on the Knoxville campus.

1968 – Fred N. Peebles: 1968-1980
Under Peebles’ assertive leadership, the Tickle College of Engineering experienced phenomenal growth in size and quality of its academic and research programs. Dean Peebles was also the first dean to initiate a process for faculty performance review. He was instrumental in establishing the college’s Minority Engineering Scholarship Program.

MESP Student in Lab in 1973

1973 – The college establishes the Minority Engineering Scholarship Program in cooperation with industry to increase the number of underrepresented students enrolled in engineering studies. The program is later incorporated as the basis for the college’s Office of Engineering Diversity Programs.

1973 – The university’s power plant, built in 1925, is renovated to house the Department of Nuclear Engineering. In 1988, the building is named Pasqua Hall in honor of Dr. Pietro F. Pasqua, the first head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering.

1973 – Aerospace engineering is officially indoctrinated into the mechanical engineering department.

1981 – Robert E.C. Weaver: 1981-1983
Dean Weaver believed that Tennessee should be a leadership state for the nation by serving as a magnet for industry. He believed that UT engineering graduates had the opportunity to significantly influence the corporate world.

1983 – William T. Snyder: 1983-1992
During Snyder’s tenure as dean, he sought radical change through a different style of management. He had a long-term vision for alumni support and industry involvement in the college. His ambitious agenda included the creation of several private Chairs of Excellence, which dramatically increased interdisciplinary research; an aggressive recruitment program for academically superior students; and a $12 million capital campaign. In July 1992, Dean Snyder was named Chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and served in that role through June 30, 2001.

1992 – Jerry E. Stoneking: 1992-2001
Stoneking was a dedicated academician and engineer who believed that students perform better when excited about their work. Under his guidance, the college reorganized its freshman curriculum into the innovative Engage Program. Dean Stoneking promoted and expanded the college’s funded research, strengthened and increased industry partnerships, organized a $33 million development campaign and formed two new degree program in biomedical and computer engineering.

Students Participate in Engage Program Project

1997– The college established the Jerry E. Stoneking engage™ Engineering Fundamentals Program for freshman students through a major grant from the National Science Foundation.

1997 – The Science and Engineering Research Facility (SERF) is constructed, a $25 million, 120,000 square-foot building that houses laboratories and classrooms for both the Tickle College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences.

2000 – UT joins with Battelle to take over management of ORNL.

2003 – Way Kuo: 2003-2008
Dean Kuo came to the University of Tennessee from Texas A&M University. Under his guidance, the college greatly expanded its research role through partnerships and joint professorships with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and other public, government, and private entities. Enrollment in the PhD program also increased dramatically during this time.

2005 – Min Kao, UT-TCE alumnus in electrical engineering and CEO of Garmin Ltd., commits to a transformational gift of $17.5 million to the college, with $12.5 million designated to construct a new, state-of-the-art building to house the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The state provided $25 million.

Two Researchers Work in the Scintillation Materials Research Center

2006– In partnership with Siemens Medical Solutions Medical Imaging, the college establishes the Scintillation Materials Research Center which specializes in its growth and characterization of scintillation materials, which are used in a diversity of applications.

2007 – The college breaks ground on the new Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building on May 14, 2007.

2008 – Wayne T. Davis: 2008 – 2018
Dean Davis’ thirty year career at the University of Tennessee culminated in his appointment as dean of engineering following serving as Interim Dean and as Associate Dean for Research and Technology for the college. Under Dean Davis’ leadership, the college has surmounted fiscal challenges and has seen increased enrollment in both undergraduate and graduate programs.

2010 – The Tickle College of Engineering breaks ground on the John D. Tickle Engineering Building. The new facility houses the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. It is named after TCE alumnus John Tickle, president and owner of the Strongwell Corporation.

2012 – The Tickle College of Engineering dedicates the Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building in a gala event on Wednesday, March 14, with a ceremony that included Kao and his wife, Fan; Governor Bill Haslam; UT President Joseph DiPietro; UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek; TCE Dean Wayne T. Davis; EECS Professor and Department Head Kevin Tomsovic; Sue Hung, wife of the late EECS professor James Hung, Kao’s academic mentor; and Min H. Kao Fellow Michael Pickelsimer.

2013 – The UT Tickle College of Engineering celebrates 175 years of engineering at the University of Tennessee. The establishment of the Wayne T. Davis Endowed Dean’s Chair of Engineering was announced at the gala event recognizing the college’s 175th anniversary.

2013– The John D. Tickle Engineering Building is dedicated on October 4, 2013.

2015– The college hosts the first WomEngineers Day, a biennial conference that brings together student, faculty, staff, and industry professionals to discuss topics that are not covered in the STEM curriculum but are important for navigating career and life choices. The first event was organized primarily by 19 UT students with the support of the college’s Board of Advisors. It was held at the Knoxville Convention Center with more than 350 high school and college students in attendance.

2015– The University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma, Tennessee, celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Barack Obama Visits ORNL

2016– President Barack Obama announces UT’s leadership of the $259 million Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, of which the college’s faculty and researchers will play a major role.

2016– For just the second time in the 222-year history of UT, an academic college has been named in recognition of an alumnus and donor. On October 14, 2016, the university’s Board of Trustees voted to name our college the Tickle College of Engineering in recognition of the latest transformational support from a longtime benefactor.

2016– The Joint Institute for Advanced Materials (JIAM) opens on the university’s Cherokee Farm Research Campus. JIAM is one of the world’s largest and best-equipped centers for advanced materials science.

2017– The engineering honors program is renamed the Joseph C. and Judith E. Cook Grand Challenge Honors Program following a significant commitment by industrial engineering alumnus Joe Cook and his wife, Judy.

2018– Dean Wayne Davis is announced Interim Chancellor of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The college’s Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Engagement Lynne Parker is announced as interim dean. In August, Parker began serving as assistant director for artificial intelligence for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. In her place, John Fisher Distinguished Professor Mark Dean stepped up to serve in the interim dean position.

New Engineering Complex Groundbreaking Ceremony

2018– The college broke ground on the 228-000 square-foot new engineering complex, which will be open in 2021. Follow along with our progress.

2019– Janis Terpenny joins the college as dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair.

2020– On September 11, the UT Board of Trustees voted to approve the naming of the Zeanah Engineering Complex after longtime supporters Eric (’84) and Elaine (’82) Zeanah. The complex, dubbed the Gateway to Engineering, is set to open in the fall of 2021 prior to the new academic year beginning.

2021– Janis Terpenny steps down as dean; Matthew Mench, head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering, steps up to serve as interim dean.

2021– In June, after a nationwide search, Mench was named dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair.

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