Group of people for a photo at 50th anniversary gala dinner

Hutchins Gifts Honor Alumni Impact While Looking Forward

By Randall Brown. Photography by Shawn Poynter.

The Tickle College of Engineering celebrated twofold for the 2023 UT Knoxville Homecoming, with a gathering that honored its rich history and set meaningful foundations for current and future students.

Homecoming week featured a series of events observing the 50th anniversary of the recently named Dwight Hutchins Office of Engineering Diversity Programs (EDP), culminating in a gala dinner for alumni, faculty, staff, and students.

In alignment with the gift that named the program, Hutchins (BS/ChE ’86) announced two related honors for alumni colleagues, recognizing achievements of both worldwide and very personal impact.

In May 2023, Hutchins honored fellow EDP alumnus Mark Dean (BS/EE ’79) by establishing the Mark Dean Advanced Computing Program Endowment in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).

Dwight Hutchins posing for a photo with his award on stage

Dean is a pioneer in computing and holds three of nine PC patents as the co-creator of the IBM personal computer released in 1981. He earned the college’s top recognition for alumni with the 2005 Nathan W. Dougherty Award. Dean followed his distinguished IBM career with a return to UT Knoxville to serve as a computer science faculty member and interim dean of the engineering college.

The endowment will be used as a matching/challenge incentive for a corporate partner to provide additional funding to fully endow a Mark Dean Center of Advanced Computing.

“Dean literally helped invent the personal computer,” said Hutchins. “This center will recognize that legacy, and continue to invest in quantum, AI, and, cyber so that we can continue to dominate and advance the art and science of computer engineering and computer science.”

“I am humbled and greatly honored to have this center carry my name,” said Dean. “This honor is one of the most significant and cherished of my career. The endowment will help the Tickle College of Engineering and the EECS department to continue to support professors and students in the advancement of computing technologies. I would like to thank Dwight Hutchins for his generous contributions to the college and university, including his involvement with this new center. It is people like Dwight who are making it possible for the college and university to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to lead us into the future.”

Hutchins also established the Department of Nuclear Engineering Excellence Endowment. In recognition and gratitude of this, the department’s executive conference room is now named the Calvin Burrell Jr. Conference Room in honor of fellow alumnus Burrell (BS/NE ’80).

This honor is one of the most significant and cherished of my career. The endowment will help the Tickle College of Engineering and the EECS department to continue to support professors and students in the advancement of computing technologies.”

—Mark Dean

Burrell was one of the first Black graduates of the nuclear engineering department and enjoyed a successful career specializing in nuclear safety with the Tennessee Valley Authority, Bechtel Corporation, and Worley Parsons. Burrell’s mentorship was instrumental for Hutchins in coming to UT and participating in what was originally called the Minority Engineering Scholarship Program (MESP) under the direction of educator Fred Brown, founder of the program.

“I’ve shared the story time and time again,” said Hutchins. “The reason I’m here is because of Fred Brown. But the reason Fred Brown came into my life is because of Calvin Burrell.”

Mark Dean giving speech at EDP Gala

When Brown visited with Hutchins’s family to tell them about the program, Burrell’s mother joined them from her home across the street and helped, as a family friend, convey the significance that the UT experience would have for Hutchins.

At the dedication, Burrell shared stories of knowing Hutchins in their school days, and of Hutchins gradeschool excellence in chemistry, including some amateur chemistry sets with lessons that Hutchins breezed through on his own.

“Then he went on into chemical engineering,” said Burrell. “He’s one brilliant individual.”

Hutchins returned the praise for Burrell.

“This man is among the first class of Blacks in the nuclear engineering program,” he said. “I think he was officially the third. These are the shoulders that our students stand on.”

Nuclear engineering Department Head Wes Hines presented Burrell with a brick from the former home of the department, the Pasqua Nuclear Engineering Building where Burrell spent a lot of his time at UT Knoxville.

Gifts such as these provided by Hutchins build foundations for future Engineering Vols while acknowledging the college’s history and milestones with the gratitude of the Volunteer Spirit.

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