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UT Icon Burdette Honored with Dougherty Award

Edwin “Ed” Burdette spent six decades at UT, watching the university and the world change around him.

Through it all, his expertise in concrete engineering never wavered as he educated generation after generation of civil engineers.

For that dedication and service, the Tickle College of Engineering has presented Burdette with its highest honor, the Nathan W. Dougherty Award for 2017.

Ed Burdette Delivering Speech
Edwin Burdette Speaks at the Faculty and Staff Awards Dinner

“I’m very grateful for the opportunities that UT gave me, both as a student and then later as a teacher,” said Burdette. “The education I got from the college and the rewarding experience I got from working there changed my life in ways I can’t imagine.”

The award is named for Nathan Dougherty, an engineering student and star athlete at UT.

In the classroom, Dougherty served on the athletic and academic council at UT from 1917-56 and as dean of the college from 1940-56.

“Dean Nathan Dougherty was one of the true pillars from our college’s history, and the selection of the award in his honor is something we take very seriously,” said Tickle College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis. “Ed Burdette is a great example of our college, its faculty, and the impact they make on students and the world at large.”

Burdette, who grew up in rural West Tennessee and attended UT Martin when it was a two-year college, transferred to UT Knoxville to complete his undergraduate studies in the mid-1950s, two years before the Dougherty Award was created.

At that time, UT was $335 per quarter, so the cash-strapped Burdette would attend school for one quarter on borrowed money and then work the next six months to pay that back, repeating the process until he graduated.

After a brief stint earning his doctorate the University of Illinois and then working in Memphis, Burdette returned to UT to teach in the 1960s.  He retired from UT in May, 2016, but can often be found on campus, encouraging yet another generation of engineers and researchers.

In contemplating his legacy to the college, he paraphrases the epitaph on the grave of another civil engineer, Sir Christopher Wren.

“At my retirement party I asked all the students I’ve had over the years who were there to stand up,” said Burdette. “Then I said, ‘If you would see my monument, look about you.’ “

Other awards for the evening included:

Outstanding Support Staff Award

  • Annette Costar, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Tracy Lee, Materials Science and Engineering
  • Ami McBride, Nuclear Engineering

Leon and Nancy Cole Superior Teaching Award

Moses E. and Mayme Brooks Distinguished Professor Award

  • Heath Fellow in Business and Engineering Rupy Sawhney, Industrial and Systems Engineering

Charles E. Ferris Faculty Award

  • Professor Bill Hamel, Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering

College of Engineering Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award

  • Associate Professor Claudia Rawn, Materials Science and Engineering

Teaching Fellows

  • James C. McConnell Professor Jens Gregor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Associate Professor Qiang He, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Professor James Plank, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Distinguished Lecturer Will Schleter, Engineering Fundamentals
  • Lecturer Chris Wetteland, Materials Science and Engineering

Charles and Julie Wharton Teaching Fellow Award

  • Associate Professor Trevor Moeller, Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering

Professional Promise in Research Awards

  • Associate Professor Charles Cao, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Assistant Professor Daniel Costinett, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Assistant Professor Jon Hathaway, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Assistant Professor and Pietro Pasqua Fellow Maik Lang, Nuclear Engineering
  • Assistant Professor Husheng Li, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Research Achievement Awards

  • Associate Professor Ivan Maldonado, Nuclear Engineering
  • Jerry and Kay Henry Endowed Professor David Mandrus, Materials Science and Engineering
  • Fred N. Peebles Professor and JIAM Chair of Excellence Dayakar Penumadu, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Min H. Kao Professor and Department Head Leon Tolbert, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Award for Translational Research

  • Fred N. Peebles Professor and JIAM Chair of Excellence Dayakar Penumadu, Civil and Environmental Engineering


David Goddard (865-974-0683,