UT’s engineering college on the upswing

11/16/2016

The day after John Tickle graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1965, he drove to Granville, Ohio, and went to work for a research laboratory.

He wasn’t there long before his coworkers, getting to know each other, began to comparing alma maters.

“They asked, and I very proudly said ‘University of Tennessee’ and I sort of threw my chest out a little bit,” he said.

No one, it appeared, was impressed.

Tickle, who is now chairman of Strongwell Corporation, has had the last laugh, though. His name is now on UT’s newest engineering building, the small animal hospital and a development suite in the Brenda Lawson Athletic Center.

After his most recent donation, which had been in the works for two years, the UT Tickle College of Engineering now also bears his name.

Beginning with a $100 donation his first year out of school, Tickle said he always has been driven to improve his alma mater in part because of that early conversation with his colleagues.

“I didn’t like that silence,” Tickle said last week. “It made me mad, and I had a goal my whole life that when somebody graduates from UT and tells (someone else) that, I want them to say ‘wow’ rather than silence.

“I think we’re on track to get some wows.”

Indeed, the college has been on the upswing for about a decade now.

The number of students has grown from 1,600 in 2006 to about 4,300 across the college this year, dean Wayne Davis said.

This year’s freshman class has an average GPA of a 4.0 and a composite ACT score of 30. Doctoral students, meanwhile, increased from 200 in 2005 to about 700 this year.

Faculty also has grown about 20 percent from 130 to 164 tenure-track, in part because UT convinced Gov. Bill Haslam to add a $3 million line-item in the state budget in 2013. Combined with university funds, the college set a goal of increasing graduates by 25 percent over the following five years.

Overall, the college ranked No. 32 this year among engineering schools at public universities by U.S. News and World Report. It ranked No. 36 among graduate programs.

Both are the highest rankings the college has ever had, Davis said.

“The really cool thing about our college is we really are at record numbers at every statistic we can look at, and I like to think the quality of education we provide is at all-time high also,” Davis said.

Tickle’s latest gift only will make the school better, he added. The money will fund 32 new Tickle fellowships to recruit top graduate students, two new professorships and a team of professional advisors who will help guide students through their college careers.

Tickle has declined to say how much he donated, and an exception in the Tennessee open records laws allows him to keep it a secret.

He did say, though, that he was inspired by the Haslam family’s gift two years ago that led to the university’s first-ever naming of a college – the Haslam College of Business. The Haslams donated $50 million for the naming rights.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Megan Boehnke

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org

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