The department recently celebrated some of its alumni with one of the highest honors it can give, inducting three new members into its Hall of Fame, and giving two previous inductees the chance to be publicly celebrated after the pandemic delayed that recognition for two years.
Fred Mynatt (BS ’62, MS ’64, PhD ’69), Norbert Ackerman Jr. (BS ’65, MS ’67, PhD ’71), and Teresa Robbins (BS ’91) are the newest members to be inducted. They were joined by Lee Dodds (BS ’66, MS ’69, PhD ’70) and John Mihalczo (PhD ’70), who were chosen in 2020.
“All of our inductees are people who have demonstrated their expertise in the field as well as a commitment to the department and the university,” said Department Head Wes Hines. “This year’s group continues that tradition, as all three have had highly successful careers while also fulfilling the Volunteer spirit, and are inspirational figures for our current students.”
Mynatt had a successful, long-term career at Lockheed Martin Energy Systems in Oak Ridge, where he worked from 1965-97, including becoming vice president for compliance, evaluations, and policy in 1990.
The combination of his knowledge of reactor theory and operation, nuclear safety, and applying the use of large-scale computing systems made him an expert in radiation shielding, including being named the US Department of Energy (DOE) Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award for “radiation-shielding analysis and for leadership in the broad application of these methods.”
Mynatt’s other honors include being elected a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), serving as chairman of the ANS’s Radiation Protection and Shielding Division, and a 1979 ANS technical achievement award. UT honored him as an outstanding engineering alumnus in 1980.
Ackerman worked as a contract researcher for Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) during his time as a both an undergraduate and graduate student at UT, and then as a research staff member in instrumentation and controls from 1968-75.
He left ORNL to found the Technology for Energy corporation, where he stayed until 1983. In the following years, Ackermann used his entrepreneurial skills to help several local starts-up get going and was named the Knoxville-Area Entrepreneur of the Year in 1990.
UT named him an outstanding engineering alumnus in 1974, and he was recognized in 1994 as one of 200 people selected as an outstanding graduate of the university during the 200th anniversary of its founding. Ackermann also played football for the Vols, earning All-SEC academic honors in 1963 and again in ’64, and would go on to serve as a football official for decades.
Robbins is currently serving as manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Production Office. Through that role, she oversees the security and safety of operations at the Pantex location in Texas that is responsible for maintaining several areas related to the nation’s nuclear weapons and the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge that is the country’s source of enriched uranium, both vital parts of national security.
More broadly, Robbins has served the NNSA and the US Department of Energy in several roles, including management, scientific and technical advisor, safety, and as project director, including in Washington, D.C., the Savannah River facility in South Carolina, and at the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado, in addition to the Pantex and Y-12 roles.
Robbins is also a recipient of the 2007 National Nuclear Security Administration Safety Professional of the Year Award.
Dodds, Mihalczo Finally Get Pandemic-Delayed Moment of Recognition
Professor Emeritus Lee Dodds and former Ford Foundation Professor and ORNL researcher John Mihalczo, both of whom were selected for hall of fame induction in 2020, were finally able to get the public recognition that the onset of the pandemic delayed for two years.
Dodds joined the department as an associate professor in 1976 after working for the Savannah River Laboratory, ORNL, and NASA. He became department head in 1997 and led the department to a top ten national ranking by U.S. News and World Report.
He is a past member of the accreditation board of the National Academy for Nuclear Training, the national board of directors of the American Nuclear Society, and the national board of directors of the Nuclear Energy Institute. He has been recognized with the Arthur Holly Compton National Teaching Award and the Robert L. Long Training Excellence Award, among other honors, and is a licensed Professional Engineer and a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society.
Mihalczo is a true US nuclear pioneer, having worked at the Curtiss Wright Corporation from 1953-58 on nuclear propulsion and other nuclear reactor applications. He joined the neutron physics division of ORNL in 1958 as a researcher at the Oak Ridge Critical Experiments Facility, where he performed a wide variety of research related to reactor design, nuclear criticality safety, and reactor physics, before joining the ORNL Instrumentation and Controls Division in 1973.
His criticality experiments, development of nuclear weapons verification technologies, and other vital research is world-renown, including his development of a technique known in Japan as the Mihalczo method. For these contributions he was awarded fellow of the American Nuclear Society.
The Hall of Fame was created to inspire current students and honor those who came before and made the department proud to be Volunteer Engineers. Honorees are selected following deliberations by the Tickle College of Engineering dean, the department head, and the department’s board of advisors.
The first class was selected in 2017, the 60th anniversary of the department, with just 13 total alumni having been chosen for the honor.