Eric Zeanah giving a speech for his Dougherty Award

Zeanah Honored with Dougherty Award

By David Goddard. Photography by Jessica Tezak.

Eric Zeanah (ISE ’84) has been a longtime member and supporter of, and advocate for, the Tickle College of Engineering community.

He and his wife, Elaine, a 1982 UT nursing alumna, have held a strong spirit of giving back through the years. Honoring that commitment, numerous spaces and programs bear their names: the Zeanah Engineering Complex, the Jessie Rogers Zeanah Faculty Fellowship, the Zeanah Student Support Fund, and the Doulet–Zeanah Student Lounge in the John D. Tickle Engineering Building. In addition, the American Accessories International Endowed Scholarship was created through Zeanah’s company.

Now he’s being recognized for that legacy of support with the 2023 Nathan W. Dougherty Award, the highest honor bestowed by the college.

“This is a tremendous honor, one that has been given to some of the most noted luminaries our college has produced over the years, and I am truly humbled to have been selected,” Zeanah said. “I am most proud of the direct interactions I have been afforded with students and so grateful to be a part of this college community, proud of our past successes, pleased with our current trajectory, and excited to see what we will achieve next.”

Additional signs of the Zeanahs’ legacy can be seen in the creation of the Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair and WomEngineers Day, both of which he helped champion into existence.

Outside the college, their lasting love for UT is reflected in their support of the VOLeaders Academy, which encourages student-athletes to use their roles to change society for the better, and the Beagle Boys Endowment at the UT Veterinary Medical Center, made in honor of their dogs, to fund costs for those who need the center’s services but can’t afford to pay.

“Eric Zeanah and his wife, Elaine, have both been ardent supporters of their alma mater financially, through their actions, and through their voices,” said Matthew Mench, dean and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair. “This is a richly deserved recognition of that and of the success that Eric has had through his company.”

This is a tremendous honor, one that has been given to some of the most noted luminaries our college has produced over the years, and I am truly humbled to have been selected.”

—Eric Zeanah

American Accessories International works with Fortune 500 companies, providing market and brand analysis, product development, material and cost analysis, and graphic design concepts.

The Dougherty Award singles out those who have brought honor and distinction to the college through their achievements or who have made significant contributions to the engineering profession in Tennessee through their professional activities and has been given annually since 1957.

The name of the award reflects Dougherty’s success in engineering and education. Among other accolades, he was a captain of UT’s football, basketball, and track teams as a student-athlete in the early 1900s, helping start the university’s first basketball team.

Later, as a faculty member and chair of the UT Athletics Board, Dougherty hired Robert Neyland as UT’s football coach. He served as dean of the college from 1940 to 1956 and as acting SEC commissioner in 1947. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

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