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ccox9One of the oldest departments in the College of Engineering will soon have a new leader: Chris D. Cox has been selected to oversee the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Cox will take over from interim department head Greg Reed on May 1, assuming leadership of a department whose history predates the college itself.

“We conducted a national search for this position, but at the end of the day it was clear that the best choice was already here,” said Wayne Davis, dean of the College of Engineering. “He’s served us well as a professor and as associate department head, and he will be an outstanding department head.”

Aspects of civil engineering were taught at what was then East Tennessee College as early as 1834, four years before engineering became a recognized discipline at the school and forty-three years before the establishment of a civil engineering department.

Since that time, some of the most familiar names in UT’s history, such as Joseph Estabrook, Charles E. Ferris and Nathan W. Dougherty—all of whom have iconic buildings on campus named for them—have helmed the department.

“What motivates me is the goal of improving our department to better educate our students, to make impactful research advances, and to better serve the civil and environmental engineering community,” said Cox, who has been with the department for twenty-four years, the last six as associate head.

“I have devoted my entire career to teaching our students and to making the department better, and I see this as a chance to put the skills I’ve learned to use for students, faculty and university as strong as can be as we continue on our quest to be a Top Twenty-Five department and college.”

Cox, who worked his way up from instructor to become associate department head in 2008, has also served since 2005 as an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards during his tenure at UT, including the Allen and Hoshall Faculty Award in 2005, the College of Engineering Research Fellow Award in 2006 and 2008, the Chancellor’s Teaching Award in 2009 and, most recently, the College of Engineering Outstanding Advising Award in 2011.

Additionally, he has been the director of UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment since 2011, a post he will vacate at the end of July. He will remain a member of the institute.

“That position exposed me to a whole new set of leadership experiences and challenges and the opportunity to work with many other people across campus,” said Cox. “The mission of the Institute is to foster interdisciplinary research in the area of environmental sustainability, which dovetails with my environmental engineering experience dating back to investigating water treatment processes as a graduate student.”

In recognition of his selection, Cox will also be the recipient of the Robert M. Condra Professorship for a five-year period beginning August 1.

Established by the late Robert M. Condra, a 1923 graduate of the college with degrees in both electrical and mechanical Engineering, the award recognizes superior academic and leadership skills.

“Condra was a longtime, ardent supporter of the college and was especially interested in helping the college attract and retain the best possible faculty,” said Davis. “Cox’s continuing outstanding performance exemplifies the type of faculty member he was seeking to reward.”

Cox received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1983 and his master’s degree in environmental engineering in 1984, both from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He earned his doctorate in environmental engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1993, where he was awarded the Abel Wolman Fellowship of the American Water Works Association.

Reed will retire from the university on May 1. He previously served as department head from 1986 to 2007, and as associate vice chancellor for research from 2007 to 2014.


David Goddard (865-974-0683,