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The College of Engineering will announce to a select gathering tonight that it is undertaking an ambitious drive to raise $150 million.

The college, now in its 177th year, is making the drive to secure its continued success and has raised $101 million of the target since the effort informally kicked off in 2012. The campaign also serves as a way for the college to emphasize its value to the university, the region, and the state.

“Our College of Engineering is one of the vital assets we have here at the University of Tennessee,” said Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “Though a monumental task, this undertaking will ensure that it remains vibrant and engaged and continues to operate at a national level for years to come.”

While the goal itself is unprecedented for the college, the effects of reaching it will be both immediate and long-lasting.

“This effort that we are undertaking is substantial, but so are the stakes and the impact of what this college means to our students and our citizens alike,” said Wayne Davis, dean of the college. “While the goal that we have set is a transformative one, the mission of the college remains the same.

“Reaching this goal will allow us to make a bold step forward in how we conduct that mission.”

Money being raised through the campaign has gone to scholarships, faculty endowments and professorships, laboratory spaces, and building renovations and improvements.

It’s part of an overall push by UT toward becoming a Top 25 public university that has seen the college add both the John D. Tickle Engineering Building and the Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building, renovate large portions of both the Nathan W. Dougherty Engineering Building and Perkins Hall, and plan for a nuclear engineering building more befitting of that department’s Top 5 national status.

Another key impetus for the push came from Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

While on campus for the opening of the Min Kao Building, Haslam stressed to Cheek and Davis the importance of education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and how he wanted UT to rapidly increase the number of STEM graduates it produces.

Haslam provided $3 million in funding for faculty and staff to help the college grow immediately, with a challenge to the university to match it with its own recurring funds, with private philanthropy being key to that commitment.

Since Haslam’s challenge, undergraduate enrollment is up almost 60 percent, while the number of students earning master’s degrees is up 30 percent and the number of doctorates being awarded is up 55 percent. In fact, the college accounted for more than a fourth of all PhDs awarded by UT last year.

Davis pointed out that the college now has more than 3,000 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate students, both all-time highs.

To meet that need, the number of faculty teaching in the college has also increased rapidly, from 130 to 171.

The demand for productive graduates, in turn, helps spin the state’s economic engine, furthering the cause of the governor’s support.

“As demand for graduates grows, so does our need to be able to support them, to teach them, to provide them research and learning opportunities,” said Davis. “And if the number of students continues to climb, then the space required to educate them and the people to teach in that space also rises—thus the importance of this fundraising drive.

“It impacts Tennessee the university, obviously, but it also impacts Tennessee the state.”

Friday’s gathering will offer statements of some of those affected, from students and student groups to prominent alumni Joe Cook Jr. and John Tickle, both from the class of 1965.

Cook, who retired as a global vice president at Eli Lilly before becoming president of a biopharmaceutical company in Nashville and founder and principal of investment firm Mountain Group Capital, will speak to the gala about how his time at UT impacted him and the lessons from the College of Engineering that he still carries with him today.

Tickle, whose name adorns the John D. Tickle Engineering Building at UT, founded the Strongwell Corporation and has been a staunch booster for the college and the university in general. He will talk about how even the smallest amount of giving can help the overall goal.

The kickoff will feature displays of various UT-led projects, such as the EcoCAR2—an all-electric vehicle used in competitions—and the Concrete Canoe, a working canoe made from concrete.


David Goddard (865-974-0683,