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2022 ISE Hall of Fame Inductees Are Giants of Service

The 2022 Hall of Fame additions for the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) include two distinguished alumni whose names are well known to the college and one alumnus who was also a longtime ISE professor.

John D. Tickle, namesake of both the college itself and the building that is home to ISE,  tops the inductee list with his long history of accomplishments and contributions. He is a 1965 graduate of the department who built his company, Strongwell, into a worldwide operation—still headquartered in nearby Bristol. His dedication and generous support of the college led to UT’s naming of the Tickle College of Engineering.

Spike and John Tickle with Hall of Honor Plaque

Spike and John Tickle with their Hall of Honor plaques.

ISE Department Head John Kobza recently joined a select group of students in a tour of the Strongwell factory, and was impressed with the very personal connections Tickle makes in his approach to ISE.

“John Tickle walked us through every inch of that very large facility,” said Kobza. “He is there first thing in the morning and greets the first-shift works. He knows workers by name and knows the names of their children. He can tell you how long the person has been with Strongwell and how they have grown and developed during their time with the company and how they’ve advanced in the organization.

John D. “Spike” Tickle II, a 1987 ISE graduate, joins his father in the Hall of Fame. He also works as a member of Strongwell’s board of directors and shares his father’s connection to their workplace community, plus his giving nature.

“Spike Tickle is also engaged with philanthropic activities, including endowing graduate fellowships in arts and sciences and engineering,” said Kobza.

Ken Kirby

Ken Kirby

Kenneth E. Kirby received multiple degrees from the ISE department, including his PhD in 1979. He served on the faculty as an assistant and associate professor for more than 20 years and, after retiring, taught as an adjunct professor in the Department of Statistics and Management Science.

“His time as a faculty member shows his dedication to education,” said Kobza.

After retiring from his adjunct role, Kirby was a member of the faculty of the Lean Enterprise Systems Design Institute, a part of the Center for Executive Education in the College of Business Administration. He also grew a broad base of experience as an industry consultant over the years. Kirby has worked with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Cessna, Woodward Governor, Allied Signal, Worth Sports, American Bicycle Group, the US Department of Defense, and the US Air Force.

“The ISE Department is proud to recognize the achievements of these individuals,” said Kobza. “The breadth of their accomplishments across industry, education and society represent the best of what industrial engineers contribute to make our lives better.”

ISE 75th Anniversary Celebration

The ISE 75th anniversary banquet brought together ISE alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends to celebrate the people who have spent time in the department and their achievements. There were alumni present from every decade beginning with the class of 1960. The evening began with bluegrass music performed by Cumberland Avenue including band member and alum Adam Larkey (BS/IE ’21) followed by welcoming remarks from Matthew Mench, Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair, Condra Chair, and Chancellor’s Professor.

A panel of alumni which include Leslie Benmark (BS/IE ’67, MS/IE ’70), Laura Knight (BS/IE ’91, MS/IE ’92), Kellie Miller (BS/IE ’88) and Kendall Miller (BS/IE ’22) shared their memories and thoughts about how their time on Rocky Top prepared them for leadership across a variety of careers.

ISE Department Head John Kobza shared his views on why department alumni have had such an impact on the Tickle College of Engineering. Three outstanding alumni were inducted into the ISE Hall of Honor:

  • John D. Tickle (BSIE ’65),
  • John “Spike” Tickle (BSIE ’87),
  • Kenneth Kirby (Associate Professor 1981-2002)

Students graduating in December were recognized and the evening ended with everyone singing “Happy Birthday!” to our department. While there were no candles to blow out, it was an exciting evening that left us breathless!

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