Skip to main content
Pictured from left: Andy White, director of the Aerospace & Defense MBA program; Clay Jones, award winner; Tim Gray, award winner; and Lane Morris, Reagan Faculty Scholar in UT’s Department of Management.

KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee, Knoxville Aerospace & Defense MBA alumnus Tim Gray earned the prestigious AVIATION WEEK Laureate Award for process improvements at Hill Air Force Base.

The Laureate Awards, which were given at a ceremony held March 17 in Washington, D.C., honor individuals, groups and organizations that have significantly advanced aerospace commerce and technology in the previous year.

Gray, an Air Force civil service employee and director, earned the award for leading maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) process improvements for the 526th Electronic Maintenance Squadron at Hill’s Ogden Air Logistics Center. It was a project he began while he was in the MBA program. Every MRO program in the aerospace industry was eligible; four finalists competed with Gray for the honor.

Gray began his effort to transform “Generator” processes in 2008 as part of his applied-research requirement in UT’s Aerospace & Defense MBA curriculum. “Team Generators” are the members of the 526th Electronic Maintenance Squadron who maintain, repair and overhaul the Air Force fleet of aircraft generators and regulators, plus aerospace ground equipment and power generation mobile units used on military installations.

Gray and his team applied the Theory of Constraints and lean principles to streamline the processes. In less than two years, the team’s efforts improved customer service and readiness levels for the unit’s warfighting customers worldwide.

Specific improvements included reducing work in progress assets by 35 percent, reducing work in progress inventory costs from a daily average of $40 million to $17.3 million, reducing maintenance squadron rework by 23 percent and producing 22 percent more assets for the warfighter, thereby enhancing combat and mission readiness.

Gray credits his instructors at UT Knoxville for his success.

“UT has a great program focused on the unique business challenges of our industry,” he said.

Lane Morris, Reagan Faculty Scholar in UT’s Department of Management and Gray’s faculty advisor, was honored to see Gray’s performance recognized.

“The business theories that Tim applied are fairly straight-forward, but the teambuilding required to impact change is what separates strong leaders from ordinary managers. He inspired his team to improve, and he sought and secured their buy-in and support. The results speak for themselves,” Morris said.

Clay Jones, another UT Knoxville alumnus, earned a Laureate Award in the Business and General Aviation Category. Jones, who is chairman, president and CEO of Rockwell Collins, was recognized for his efforts to communicate the economic contributions and needs of America’s aviation industry. Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from UT Knoxville and a master’s degree in business administration from George Washington University.

AVIATION WEEK’S Laureate Awards were conceived more than 50 years ago to recognize the extraordinary achievements of individuals and teams in aerospace, aviation and defense. Gray and Jones won two of the eight Laureate Awards given by the magazine in March.

To date, more than 150 leaders from across the aerospace and defense industry have participated in the UT’s Aerospace & Defense MBA program. The executive-level MBA program is custom-designed for the industry’s unique business education needs. It has served leaders from virtually every sector of the industry across the United States and the world. The Aerospace & Defense MBA is central to the diverse portfolio of programs that the University of Tennessee College of Business Administrations offers the aerospace and defense industry. For more information, visit

C O N T A C T :

Cindy Raines (865-974-4359,