Reflections

By Dr. Zach Henry

My first contact with the Agricultural Engineering Department of The University of Tennessee was in 1957. I was a graduate student at Clemson University in the Cotton Ginning Engineering program of the Agricultural Engineering Department with J. A. (Kayo) Mullins and David W. Chandler. Kayo was on leave from his position as Cotton Ginning Specialist with the Agricultural Extension Service at Jackson, Tennessee, and Dave was on leave from his position as Cotton Ginning Specialist with the Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service at Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dave had received his BS in Agricultural Engineering from The University of Tennessee in the late 1940's. He was first registered as a Freshman about 1931 but had an interrupted educational program until he was able to finance his education with the GI Bill. When a Senior, he served as the first President of the National Council of Student Branches.

These contacts gave me an excellent picture of the embryo period in the development of our Agricultural Engineering Department. I was impressed with the strong fundamental engineering foundation which the students obtained in the early years and the way that this foundation was evidenced by the performance of the graduates.

Our Major Professor at Clemson was Dr. James A. Anderson, who later became head of the Agricultural Engineering Department at The University of Tennessee. He succeeded Dr. Clarence Bockhop in 1960. In the Spring of 1960 Dr. Anderson invited me to apply for one of the open positions in Tennessee, and I joined the faculty in September of 1961 after completing the PhD degree at North Carolina State University.

My appointment was split between the Agricultural Engineering Department and the Agricultural Experiment Station's Cotton Fiber Laboratory which was housed in the Physics Department. Members of the Teaching and Research faculty at that time were Denver Baxter, Erwin Boyce, A. L. Kennedy, Arthur Morgan and Curtis Shelton. Mr. Russell Stone and John Goodenough were on appointment with the USDA Agricultural Research Service with an office and laboratory in the old Quonset building.

In December of 1961, Dr. Anderson was named the head of the Agricultural Engineering Department at Mississippi State University. He was succeeded here by Dr. John McDow who had previously been head of the Agricultural Engineering Department at Louisiana Tech. Dr. John (Ike) Sewell joined our Department in 1962 after receiving his PhD at North Carolina State University.

The buildings of the Department at that time included the "Old" Ag Engineering, the "New" Ag Engineering, the "Machinery Building," and the "Quonset Building." The Old Ag Engineering Building stood north of our current office building (toward Morgan Hall) in the corner of what is now parking area 60. It was a wood frame structure originally built as a dairy barn around 1899. "Old Ag" housed the Agricultural Engineering Extension staff and a processing research laboratory as well as teaching laboratories for wood and metal working. The building was filled with the marks of time such as the old original electrical wiring, several generations of phone and intercom systems, and the remains of electrical teaching laboratories which were cooperative with TVA.

Our current office building (now referred to as "Old Ag") is what used to be the "New" Ag Engineering Building. It was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) with work beginning in 1939. The workmanship of the builder trainees can still be seen in some of the exposed interior brick and block walls. Most of the offices, classes and teaching laboratories were in this building until renovation began in 1979.

The Machinery Building was located just southeast of our current office building. It was used for teaching, research and special projects activities. The building was a wooden military surplus structure measuring about 40 x 100 feet.

The Quonset Building was a round top metal building approximately 40 x 150 feet. It was usually bustling with activity as it housed the machine shop and a few other laboratories and offices.

There was one row of parking along the south side of our current office building, the space where our new building sets was a cotton research plot! A USDA Cotton Spinning Laboratory was in the building now called Plant Sciences Annex A just southeast of our new building In 1969 the Cotton Fiber Laboratory was moved to the building now called Plant Sciences Annex B just south of the Spinning Laboratory. Both of these buildings became part of the Agricultural Engineering Department.

As our faculty and facilities grew, so did our prominence in both the Institute of Agriculture and the College of Engineering. Our first attempt to become ECPD (now ABET) accredited was before 1960 when Dr. Clarence Bockhop was department head. This effort was continued under the leadership of Dr. Anderson, however, there were problems in resolving all the administrative details. Dr. McDow was successful in eliminating those obstacles, and our first accreditation was accomplished in 1964. Full accreditation has been maintained since that time. In 1967, we received graduate school approval to offer the PhD degree.

Prior to 1973 Extension was separate from Teaching and Research, but in that year Dr. Houston Luttrell was named head of the combined Agricultural Engineering Department. The latest addition to our building was accomplished in 1981 under his leadership and expanded our total space to more than 75,000 square feet.

The addition of new faculty and facilities permitted improved teaching and research programs which propelled our department role from one of primarily service to one of leadership in all phases of activity within the Institute of Agriculture and across the state. Additionally, our outstanding faculty and the superior performance of our graduates has put us in a strong leadership position nationally. Under the subsequent leadership of Dr. Fred Tompkins and Dr. Roland Mote, our Department has maintained the flexibility to develop and highlight programs of high state and national priority along with a strong internationally recognized faculty.

Our most recent step forward has been the addition of a Biological Engineering option and a change in our name to the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department. This provides a new emphasis on areas that will propel us into a new century yielding accomplishments far beyond anything that we can imagine at this time.


Back to "Home"
Copyright (c) 1999