In 1847, a course offering studies in mechanical philosophies and mechanics appeared at what was then East Tennessee University.
Now, almost 170 years later, the school is UT, and the course has grown into the College of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering (MABE), two-thirds of which would have been considered science fiction to those many years ago.
Now, the department is calling upon that legacy as it prepares to open its hall of fame.
The honor of being in the inaugural class belongs to a chancellor, an astronaut, an automotive pioneer, and a longtime presence in various Oak Ridge facilities.
“The four inaugural hall of fame class members truly reached the top of their professions and have had profound positive impacts on so many people’s lives,” said Matthew Mench, head of the department. “We are grateful for all they have done to represent and support our department.”
Former UT Chancellor William Snyder earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at UT in 1954.
He returned to his alma mater in 1970, serving as dean of the college from 1983 to 1992 before becoming chancellor, a role he held until 2001.
“It is a tremendous honor to be in this first hall of fame class, one I take great pleasure in,” said Snyder. “Big Orange runs very deep in my family, and I think it’s a wonderful idea and a great way to celebrate the department.
“I have a lot of love for UT.”
In fact, that love of both his university and of his department led him to teach for four more years after he retired as chancellor.
Perhaps known best around Knoxville for playing the Mighty Wurlitzer organ at the Tennessee Theatre, Snyder said there are even traces of engineering in how he came into that role.
“I learned piano in the third grade and then learned how to play the organ in high school,” said Snyder. “I was fascinated and intrigued with how they worked, of all the mechanisms involved.
“I guess you could say that’s where my engineering started.”
Henry Hartsfield was UT’s first astronaut, earning selection in 1969. He earned his master’s degree with a focus on engineering science at UT’s Space Institute in 1971.
He won NASA Distinguished Service Medals in 1982 and 1988, NASA Space Flight Medals in 1982, 84, and 85, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1988, and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2006 with more than 480 hours spent in space.
Hartsfield and fellow astronaut Ken Mattingly flew the Space Shuttle Columbia on its fourth voyage and later regaled the crowd at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville with stories from the trip.
“I’ve never had so much fun,” he was quoted as saying of the mission. “We talked about turning the radio off and staying up there.”
A retired Air Force Colonel, Hartsfield died in July 2014.
Richard Rosenberg also earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at UT in 1954.
He served at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Westinghouse, and General Atomic in the course of his career, and was a member of several mechanical engineering societies.
Most notably, Rosenberg became president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1987 and received both the Dedicated Service Award and Centennial Medallion from the group in 1988.
Rosenberg was a member of a delegation of U.S. engineers who visited their Soviet Union counterparts in Moscow in 1987, a meeting made possible by the thawing of the Cold War under Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of Glasnost.
He later spoke to ASME on the visit and its impact on U.S.-Soviet relations, saying, “I think it was very important, probably more than what I realized at the time.”
The boardroom at ASME headquarters now bears his name.
Rinehart Bright graduated from UT in 1936 in mechanical engineering, having worked his way through college by shoveling coal to help heat residence halls on campus.
An interest in automobiles led him to a job with Chrysler Corporation, where he had risen to the position of vice president before retiring in 1977.
For his continued contributions to UT, Bright was honored with the Nathan W. Dougherty Award, the highest honor given by the College of Engineering.
His support of UT continued even after his death in 2006, with his estate providing funding for what became the Rinehart S. Bright Laboratory.
To be considered for inclusion in the hall of fame, inductees must have earned a degree from the department and actively collaborate with UT, have at least ten years of experience and have demonstrated practical or leadership contributions to the department.
Additionally, honorees need to have been honored for work in their field by recognized organizations and cannot be active university faculty.
“The development of a hall of fame for our department is long overdue,” said Mench. “There are many wonderful examples of incredible engineers that could have been selected.”
Recipients will be formally inducted at the MABE spring banquet.
C O N T A C T :
David Goddard (865-974-0683, firstname.lastname@example.org)