Written by Laura Tenpenny.
The Scott family’s extensive roots go deep at UT. Within this Big Orange tree, Garney Scott Jr. (BS ’62), Garney Scott III (BS ’89), and Ethan Scott (BS ’20) have a particular attachment to ISE, each having gone through its IE program.
“As a student, I wondered if I’d make it,” recalled Garney Jr. “Back then, the objective was more about weeding people out. Classes were big, with a mixture of Korean War veterans like me and 19-year-old kids. Until our final couple years, we didn’t get to know the professors that well.”
Garney Jr.’s grandson, Ethan, experienced the same rigor, but with some key differences.
“I also thought ‘am I gonna make it?’, but as I got into the harder classes, I realized that the professors want you to succeed,” said Ethan. “I had a great experience and learned a ton throughout the program.”
One day Ethan will likely put that experience to use at Scepter Inc., the aluminum recycling business that his grandfather founded in 1986. His father, Garney III, joined Scepter in his late twenties and now serves as CEO and president.
“When my dad bought the first plant, I was a sophomore at UT,” remembered Garney III. “He told me I’d be paying for school like he did if it didn’t make money fast. So, I wished him lots of luck! Thankfully, his skill, education, operating plan, and talent for making good decisions paid off.”
Garney Jr. spent twenty-plus years at Alcoa Corporation, where he was running large plants, when he left to start his business. Scepter now has several plants around the globe.
“We take scrap of all sizes, shapes, and forms and recycle it for our customers. It gets re-melted, cleaned up, and returned, typically in molten form, though we also provide semi-finished products,” explained Garney III.
They make up part of a three-billion-dollar industry in Tennessee, contributing to the more than 70 percent of recycled aluminum in the US market that provides for drinking cans, automobiles, aircraft, and construction materials.
“We’re proud of our reputation in the industry,” said Garney Jr. “We give our customers a cleaner, better product than they brought us and an analysis so they can calculate its best use.”
With an internally developed process, Scepter provides a high aluminum recovery rate and superior quality. Having spent a couple summers on co-op at Scepter, Ethan is quite familiar with this process.
“I helped with the spectrometer, which measures percentages of metals in the aluminum, to redo all its procedures and revitalize how to calibrate and standardize it,” said Ethan. “The semester before that, I had Quality with Dr. Vlok, so it was a seamless transition from school to real-world application.”
Naturally, Ethan’s father and grandfather have also relied on their IE experience at work.
“Dr Sawhney taught me linear programming, which we use regularly at Scepter since it’s a great way to solve complex problems,” said Garney III. “Being able to talk to and understand other types of engineers has also been super important.”
Garney Jr. added, “The financial background taught in IE is vital for owning a business, because the first problem you have is ‘where am I going to get the money and what do I do with it?’”
For Garney Jr., one IE professor had a particular impact.
“Dan Doulet brought a lot of realism into class,” said Garney Jr. “He gave us projects to work on that helped when we got on the outside. The ability to recognize and solve problems is terribly important for getting the most bang for your buck.”
Garney Jr. and Garney III will join Doulet this year in the department’s Hall of Honor.
Ethan, of course, has some life to live before potential hall-of-honor induction. Many folks at Scepter asked when he’d be starting, but he plans to get some experience first and perhaps an MBA, as well as a pilot’s license to match his dad’s and grandad’s.
“That’s smart, getting a broad range of experience,” said Garney III. “He’s already got a deeper base knowledge of industrial engineering than I did when I graduated. The core learning has improved.”
Garney Jr. concurred, “The college has a new fire about it. The department’s growing, with courses that are more meaningful,” said Garney Jr. “I’ve watched Ethan come through IE, and he’s got a good degree that will serve him well when he goes to work.”
Garney III noted that aluminum is infinitely recyclable, a quality that is more and more desirable in today’s market. No doubt, the company’s future is as bright as Ethan’s and both will enjoy as much success as their founder and current captain.