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John Tickle Engineering Building
John Tickle Engineering Building

KNOXVILLE – The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, broke ground Tuesday on the John Tickle Engineering Building, a cutting-edge facility that will house two key departments in the university’s College of Engineering.

The five-story, 110,000-square-foot building, named for Tickle, president and owner of Strongwell Corp. and a 1965 alumnus of the college, will contain laboratory space, classrooms and offices. In addition, the building also will anchor a new gateway to campus and provide a new link between Neyland Drive and the Hill.

“This facility will play a vital role in our efforts to bring students into the engineering fields, and will greatly enhance the opportunities available to faculty and students as they work to shape the future of our state and our nation,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “We are all especially grateful to both John and Ann Tickle for their support for our university and its mission, and we’re proud that the building will bear John’s name.”

John and Ann TickleThe Tickles have provided a generous donation toward the construction of the John Tickle Building, which will house the department of civil and environmental engineering and the department of industrial and information engineering.

“Education is the key for taking this state and our nation forward. In academics, like athletics, to get the best we have to have the best facilities,” Tickle said.

Facilities for each of the two departments are currently spread across several different buildings both on and off the main campus. The new space will include the American Society of Civil Engineers Project Lab/Student Project Lab, the GeoTech Lab and the Undergraduate Soils Laboratory, computer and senior design labs, a student study and seminar room, and faculty and graduate student offices.

A unique feature of the building is the pedestrian bridge that will connect the Tickle Engineering Building to the

John Tickle Engineering Building
John Tickle Engineering Building

heart of the campus. Easing pedestrian access for students, faculty and staff to the Hill, the bridge is a signature element that also will provide a visual link from the facility to the existing engineering buildings on the Hill.

Along with Cheek and the Tickles, those taking part in the groundbreaking included Jan Simek, UT interim president; Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam; Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale; Jim Porter, chair of the UT College of Engineering Board of Advisors; Mike Crabtree, representative, Campaign for Tennessee College of Engineering Executive Committee; Wayne Davis, UT Knoxville engineering dean; Dayakar Penumadu, professor and head, department of civil and environmental engineering; and Bruce Robinson, professor and interim head, department of industrial and information engineering.

The $23.1 million new facility is funded both by private support from the Tickles as well as funding from the State of Tennessee.

The Tickles also provided considerable support for the John and Ann Tickle Small Animal Hospital expansion within UT’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Their gift allowed construction to go forward on the $10 million, 32,000-square-foot addition in 2007. The facility was opened in the spring of 2008.

Tickle Engineering Building GroundbreakingTickle received his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering in 1965 from the UT Knoxville. He served in positions with Owens Corning Tech Center, Justin Enterprises and Krueger Metal Products before returning to his hometown of Bristol, Va., to assume the presidency of Morrison Molded Fiber Glass Co. Tickle stayed with MMFG after its acquisition by Shell in 1985 and eventually purchased the company. He renamed the company Strongwell Corp. in 1997. Today, Strongwell is a worldwide operation, with the Bristol division serving as its headquarters.

Tickle is a member of the Campaign for Tennessee Engineering Executive Committee. He has been the recipient of a host of local, regional and national business and philanthropic awards, including having the mall at Bristol Regional Medical Center, which was dedicated in 2004, named for him; laureate in the Junior Achievements Business Hall of Fame in 2000; Virginia Chamber of Commerce Torchbearer Award for Western Virginia in 1999; and serving as Bristol Regional Hospital chairman from 1987 to 1992. He also was a member of the UT Athletics Board and has served on the College of Engineering’s Board of Advisors.

Ann Tickle graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the UT Knoxville College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. Tickle also has been extensively involved in philanthropic work.

Ceremonial Hardhats for the Tickle Engineering Building GroundbreakingThe Campaign for Tennessee — the most ambitious effort in the university’s 214-year history — places UT among the ranks of the nation’s largest public and private institutions that have sought this level of private support. As of April 30, 2009, more than $577 million of the $610 million Knoxville campus goal had been received in both donations and pledges for future support.

The campaign, which launched its silent phase in 2005, will secure private gifts that, in turn, will contribute substantially to the distinct, but linked, campuses in the UT system. Funds raised through the campaign will directly support the objectives of UT’s strategic plan, including improving student access and success, research and economic development, outreach and globalization.

C O N T A C T :

Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409,

Kim Cowart (865-974-0686,