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Lasting Legacy: Kessel Scholarship Benefits Five ISE Students Each Year

Former Knox County businessman and long-time officeholder Wallace “Dwight” Kessel passed away in June 2023 at the age of 96, and his widow, Gloria, passed away in January 2024 at 92. But their legacies live on through a scholarship program they created 35 years ago in the Tickle College of Engineering.

The Kessels established the Wallace “Dwight” Kessel Scholarship in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering in 1989. To date, the endowed fund has awarded $303,747 in scholarships benefiting more than 159 students.

Recipients Grateful for Help

Chase Post, Jacob Seals, Preston Ruth, and Harriet “Hattie” Williamson are among the 2023-24 recipients of the Wallace “Dwight” Kessel Scholarship.

Post, a junior who plans to pursue a PhD, said he’s used the scholarship to “cover everyday expenses, including food and other bills, so I can focus more of my time on classes and undergraduate research.”

Chase Post

Seals, who will graduate in May and then work for PepsiCo in Chicago, said the scholarship has allowed him to engage in extracurricular activities in lieu of working. He is a co-lead ambassador for the Engineering Professional Practice program, which helps engineering students find co-op or internship positions. He also co-chairs the Volapalooza planning team for the Campus Event Board.

Jacob Seals

Ruth, a member of UT’s track & field team and an entrepreneur who has launched a fitness venture called Run Yourz, said the scholarship has been “a life changer.”

“As a walk-on athlete who didn’t have time to work a job, having financial help … made it possible for me to focus on chasing my dreams.”

Preston Ruth

Williamson, who will graduate in May and then move to Nashville to work with PepsiCo, said, “It wasn’t until my third year of college that I stumbled upon industrial engineering, which led me to add an extra year to my studies.”

The scholarship “allowed me to invest in my studies unburdened by the financial worries of an extra year.”

Harriet Williamson

A Life Well Lived

Raised in West Virginia, Dwight Kessel served in the Navy during WWII and then earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering at UT in 1950.

After working as an engineer for several years, he took a position at Chapman Wholesale Drugs, a family business he built into a multi-state chain. During his career, he also converted the Farragut Hotel into office space and helped create one of the nation’s first internet companies, U.S. Internet.

Kessel was on the Knoxville City Council from 1963-66 and served as Knox County Clerk from 1966-80. He was elected as the first Knox County Executive in 1980; he held the position, now called County Mayor, for 14 years.

Kessel was active with the Boy Scouts of America, the Greater Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, the Girls Club, the Knox County Health Council, the Development Corporation of Knox County, the Juvenile Court Advisory Board, the East Tennessee Foundation, and the West Knoxville Kiwanis. He served on the UT National Alumni Association, the Tickle College of Engineering Board of Advisors, UT Chancellor’s Associates, and the UT Development Council.

The Kessels also created an endowment for UT’s Institute for Public Service to assist Tennessee county governments.

Dwight Kessel was recognized as UT’s Volunteer of the Year in 1998. He received UT’s Alumni Service Award in 2013 and the Tickle College of Engineering’s Nathan W. Dougherty Award in 2014.

The Kessels have been honored with several community buildings bearing their names, including the Wallace “Dwight” Kessel Girls Club Gymnasium, Dwight Kessel Pavilion, Dwight Kessel Garage, and Dwight and Gloria Kessel Auditorium at UT.