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It’s not uncommon for alumni to give back to UT by establishing endowed scholarships.

What makes the new Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon Inc. (BWSC) Endowed Scholarship within UT’s Tickle College of Engineering so different is that it wasn’t just one person giving back, but 25 alumni representing seven colleges, who all now work for the company.

“We have a strong relationship with the company and with 42 of their employees who have degrees from UT,” said Wayne Davis, dean of the college. “This scholarship is a testament of our relationship and their investment in the university.”

University of Tennessee Tickle College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis, right, stands with Barge Waggoner Chief Operating Officer Randy Ferguson.

The idea came about during a 2016 meeting between Barge Waggoner Chief Operating Officer Randy Ferguson and former executive Jim Downing, both UT graduates who earned their bachelor and master degrees in civil engineering in 1980 and ’84 and 1969 and ’74, respectively.

Ferguson took the idea to a committee of UT alumni, who thought that endowing a scholarship would be a great way to give back to their alma mater while at the same time raising the company’s profile in recruiting new UT graduates. The Board of Directors agreed, and chose the Tickle College of Engineering as the home for the new scholarship.

To support the effort, Barge Waggoner authorized a matching contribution of up to $1,250 a year for every employee who participates with a gift or multi-year pledge.

Initially the goal was to begin offering the scholarship a few years from now. Due to the overwhelming response from its employees, however, the inaugural scholarship can be awarded beginning in the fall of 2018, far ahead of schedule.

“We are always seeking talented engineers and the competition for talent is only going to increase in the foreseeable future,” said Ferguson. “We hope that over time the BWSC Endowed Scholarship will boost students’ awareness of the company and further entice future engineering graduates to join our employment ranks.”

As employees and retirees continue to support the endowment, its annual scholarship output will grow. All UT engineering students will be eligible to receive the scholarship, but preference will be granted to students with a demonstrated financial need.

Barge Waggoner describes its enduring purpose as “creating a better life by unleashing the potential of its employees, clients and communities.” Its ranks include engineers, architects, landscape architects, planners and surveyors located in 14 offices across Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Ohio and Texas. The company is ranked in the top 200 of Engineering News-Record’s (ENR) Top 500 Design Firms.



David Goddard (, 865-974-0683)