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Tickle-ribboncuttingToday, UT alumnus and Strongwell Corporation founder John D. Tickle helped dedicate the new engineering building named in his honor—a state-of-the art and much-needed addition to UT’s fastest-growing college.

The ceremony also commemorated 175 years of engineering at the university and forty years of diversity programs.

John Tickle and his wife, Ann, joined Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek, UT President Joe DiPietro, and Dean of Engineering Wayne T. Davis, and other officials to celebrate the John. D Tickle Engineering Building. A gift from the couple made possible the building, which sits just east of Neyland Stadium, behind Pasqua Hall, facing Neyland Drive.

“This building is a beautiful addition to campus,” said John Tickle. “This is a constantly forward-moving campus, and it’s going to continue moving forward.”

Tickle-EngineeringThe $23.1 million, five-story, 110,000-square-foot building houses the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. It anchors a new gateway to campus and provides a new link between Neyland Drive and the Hill. The link is a bridge that includes fiberglass-reinforced large I-beams manufactured by Strongwell, Tickle’s company.

The project began in December 2009. The building opened to students this semester.

John Tickle graduated from UT in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. He was president of Morrison Molded Fiber Glass Company in his hometown of Bristol, Virginia, before he purchased it and renamed it Strongwell in 1997. Today, Strongwell is a worldwide operation, with the Bristol division serving as its headquarters.

Ann Tickle graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. She hosted the popular syndicated TV show Romper Room—which predated Sesame Street—at a Bristol TV station from 1969 to 1976 and is extensively involved in philanthropic work.

John and Ann Tickle
John and Ann Tickle

“We are all especially grateful to John and Ann Tickle for their support for our university and its mission,” said Cheek. “Cutting-edge facilities like this one help UT recruit and enroll more students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields—which is a significant priority to our state and our nation’s competitiveness. They also enhance the opportunities available to faculty and students as they work to solve the world’s most important problems.”

The College of Engineering has experienced significant growth in its enrollment and faculty, but also in its national prominence. Since 2007, undergraduate enrollment has increased by 40 percent and doctoral enrollment has increased by more than 60 percent. The faculty has grown and the college’s research profile has also expanded. Since 2009, the college faculty has added ten new prestigious Governor’s Chairs, eight endowed fellowships and professorships, and one endowed chair. The college’s national rankings have also been on an upward trajectory. Its undergraduate and graduate programs are both ranked 37th overall among doctoral-granting public universities by U.S. News and World Report, and its nuclear engineering graduate program is ranked sixth in the nation among all public and private universities.

A recently approved proposal by Haslam will continue this momentum by investing additional recurring state funding into the college to increase the number of faculty, provide additional support staff and ensure the college’s ability to provide an increasing number of engineering graduates within the state.

The Tickle Building has twenty-four laboratories, three conventional classrooms, one lecture hall, three student work spaces, and sixty-three faculty and graduate student offices. The laboratories include a high-bay area for both structural testing and asphalt road surface testing as well as a geotechnical laboratory. The three classrooms promote collaborative learning through the use of movable chairs and Smart Boards.

“This building continues to fuel the excitement about our research and teaching programs,” said Davis. “Our college always aspires to be better and better. The Tickles’ continual support of and belief in UT allows us to keep moving forward and create initiatives that will benefit students for generations to come.”

It’s been sixty-four years since two all-new academic facilities greeted students for a new school year. The John D. Tickle Engineering Building opening coincides with the opening of the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center. They are among twelve classroom and research facilities on the Knoxville and Agriculture campuses that have been built or undergone major renovations in the past five years.

The John D. Tickle Building was designed by Grieve Associates Architects of Knoxville and Messer Construction of Knoxville was the general contractor.

For more information about the building, visit

For more information about the College of Engineering, visit the college’s website.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460,

Kim Cowart (865-974-0686,