From the time he arrived as a student in 1976 until his passing in December, Rapinder “Rupy” Sawhney was a fixture of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, staying on as a faculty member after his graduation and eventually becoming department head and later Heath Faculty Fellow in Engineering. The impact he had in those 46 years is readily apparent in the outpouring of memories shared by those whose lives he touched. Here are some of those thoughts.
(Comments have been edited for style and length. A full version of this story can be found online at ise.utk.edu.)
Rupy changed lives. He was a dedicated educator who had a remarkable ability to see potential in every student he encountered.” –Carla Arbogast, CASRE director
“I had the honor of working alongside Dr. Rupy Sawhney for more than 17 years. Over that time, we became valued colleagues and the best of friends, with our families sharing many wonderful experiences together. One of Rupy’s favorite pastimes was spending time on my boat during the summer. We would spend hours on the water, and when his family would visit from overseas he always asked if we could take them out on the water. He wanted them to have different life experiences that were not possible because of the regions they lived in.
Rupy changed lives. He was a dedicated educator who had a remarkable ability to see potential in every student he encountered. His passion for his work and his belief that every individual had something unique to offer drove him. He never judged anyone based on their academic performance or social background. Instead, he focused on their strengths and encouraged them to reach for their full potential. He would spend hours working with his students, giving them personal attention and guidance, and providing constructive feedback to help them improve. Through the Center for Advanced Research and Education, we will continue his legacy and work by expanding upon the Sawhney model, emphasizing its commitment to placing people at the center of all operations and growing opportunities in workforce development, quality of life of people, servant leadership, and efforts in people-centric operational excellence. He was a true inspiration to all who knew him, and his legacy lives on through those whose lives he touched and transformed.”
—Carla Arbogast, CASRE director
“For me, Dr. Sawhney was a mentor and an example. I worked and studied with him more than 12 years. He was a very driven person, and I always told him that he was the best negotiator I’ve ever met in my life. He had a work ethic like no other. I always used to say that his hobby was to work. He’s leaving both a legacy with his teachings and his research, as well as big shoes to fill. From his characteristic phrases such as “Continue the hard work,” “Make me rich and famous,” and “Gladiators don’t get sick or take breaks,” to just listening to him talk about his ideas and vision, we will miss him very much.
He was a person that wanted to contribute to different environments, not only at the university as a professor, but also as a citizen, as a husband and parent, and as a friend. He would always feel attracted to participate in different committees that dealt with his profession, but also with his civic duty and his religious beliefs. Wherever he is, I am sure he is finding ways to improve and already changing things around.”
—Enrique Macias De Anda, CASRE research assistant professor and industry liaison and former student
“Dr. Sawhney was a unique individual who inspired us to do our best while also caring for our well-being. He played the role of both a father figure and a leader, often teasing us by telling us to leave his office or that we would never graduate, but it was all in good fun. What mattered most was his dedication to making us feel like a family. We miss him dearly, and his kindness and leadership remain with us always.”
—Guilherme Zuccolotto, former student
“Dr. Sawhney was a professor that pushed his students beyond what they thought they were capable of while creating an environment where mistakes were welcomed and used in a way that improved every student’s experience.”
—Tucker Duncan, former student
“I have the rare privilege of not only being a former student of Dr. Sawhney but also returning to teach in the department as a colleague. I can still recall our first conversation when I sat down in his office as a new professor, when he asked, “Who are you, Laura?” and the sincere interest and attention he gave to my unprepared, erratic response. The difference in our paths over the almost 30 years apart melted away as we moved closer as mentor–mentee/friends during the past five years. Our impromptu conversations over motivation and teaching philosophies are some of my favorite in my most recent personal development! Thanks for everything, Rupy.”
—Laura Knight, ISE assistant professor of practice and outreach and engagement coordinator, and former student
“The passion for teaching came to me from Dr. Sawhney. He treated his graduate students as a family member. He was very open in sharing his thoughts to his graduate students. He motivated his students whenever students needed motivation.
I am very proud to say that I was his graduate student. He was more than a mentor, advisor, and well-wisher. It’s shocking to hear that he passed away and is no more. You will be missed, Dr. Sawhney, and may his soul rest in peace.”
—Karthik Subburaman, former graduate student
“Dr. Rupy Sawhney was advisor, mentor, and friend. He played such an influential role in my professional life, progression, and success. He was teaching critical thinking and constantly challenging the status quo, both skills I’ve leveraged throughout my career.
Post-college, he was a mentor whom I could always call on for questions, advice, and support. I was fortunate to cross paths with him at this year’s Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers conference in Seattle. Although it had been years since seeing each other, it was like picking up a conversation we’d had last week. Thank you, Rupy, for everything you have done for me and the profession of industrial engineering.”
—Isaac Mitchell, former student
Power your creative ideas with pixel-perfect design and cutting-edge technology. Create your beautiful website with Zeen now.