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Dr. William Sullivan petting his child's dog Prince

UT Alumnus, Former Faculty Member William Sullivan Memorialized with Fund

UT alumnus and former faculty member William Sullivan passed away in June 2023 at the age of 81 at his home in Oak Ridge. His legacy lives on in the many books he authored, the international conference he co-founded, and now through an endowment fund established by his children in the Tickle College of Engineering.

Sullivan was born in Philadelphia and lived in Canada, Iowa, and California as a child. In 1951, his family moved to Oak Ridge, where he graduated high school. Growing up, Sullivan was involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and he became an Eagle Scout at age 18.

Dr. William Sullivan sitting outside wearing a University of Tennessee hat

He earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering and economy from UT in 1964 and his doctorate from Georgia Tech in 1970. The next year, Sullivan joined the faculty of UT’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. He moved to Virginia Tech in 1983, retired from there in 2001, and was granted emeritus status in 2003.

Sullivan’s children—Tracy Sullivan Turner, a certified public accountant, and William John Sullivan, a professional photographer (
—recently established the Dr. William G. Sullivan Endowed Graduate Fund. The endowment, which will continue to accept contributions, will fund graduate fellowships and teaching assistantships.

“Dad’s passion for teaching came from mentoring students at the graduate level,” William John Sullivan said. “My sister Tracy and I felt it would be fun to be involved with students to honor Dad. We know this is what Dad wanted—to contribute to higher education and to continue helping others.”

Sullivan was a member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (now IISE), the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.

Dr. William Sullivan in his home wearing a red, white, and blue striped button down shirtAlong with a professor from the University of Limerick, Ireland, Sullivan founded the Flexible Automation and Intelligent Manufacturing (FAIM) international conference in 1991 and was involved in its coordination for more than 25 years. Since its inception, FAIM has been hosted by 26 universities in 14 countries in Europe, America, and Asia.

Sullivan’s research focused on engineering economic analysis, activity-based and parametric-cost estimating, multi-attribute decision modeling, environmentally conscious engineering, and the microeconomic aspects of lean and agile manufacturing. He authored or co-authored more than 35 textbooks, which have been printed in numerous languages and used by more than a million students worldwide. One of his most popular textbooks was Engineering Economy.

“Dad continued to write textbooks up until he passed away, having finished the review for his final edition of Engineering Economy, the 18th edition,” William John Sullivan said. “Dad was literally a walking encyclopedia, always devising new mathematical problems for his students. He was a wonderful man who left a lasting impression on his students and his family.”

William Sullivan and his wife Janet standing on the beach at sunsetSullivan received Eugene L. Grant Award in 1984, the 1991 Annual Best Paper for work published in the Engineering Economist, and the 2018 National Engineering Economy Teaching Excellence Award.

Sullivan was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Janet DePersio Sullivan, who passed in 2016.