In recognition of outstanding research and scholarship as Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering (MABE), Prof. Zhang was awarded a B. Ray Thompson Professorship. We like to extend our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to our esteemed Thompson Family for their invaluable support.
B. Ray Thompson [1906-1987] was born in Scott County, Tennessee as a son of a sawmill operator in Elgin. He worked in the coal industry throughout his career, starting off quite poor and working his way from the bottom all the way up to president of the Garland Coal Company. He left the firm to form his own companies, collectively known as Elk River Resources, and owned mines and timber operations in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. He developed an emission-free coke oven. By the time he sold Elk River to the Sun Corporation in the late 1970’s he had made a fortune, which he spent the rest of his life giving away to causes of particular importance to his family, many of whom attended UT. Notable recipients of Thompson’s support include UT Athletics (helped financed the building of Thompson-Bowling Arena, sharing his name on the building with then UT president Edward Bowling), the Thompson Cancer Survival Center (which he hoped would make the world’s best care and experimental treatments affordable to people of modest means – located in Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center), and the Elgin Foundation (which helps coal miner families in Appalachia). In 1981, he established the B. Ray Thompson Endowment at UT to benefit what at the time were known as the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Department of Accounting, the College of Agriculture, and the College of Veterinary Medicine. Funds for your B. Ray Thompson Professorship award come from this endowment. Annual updates from those who benefit from this account are shared with one of Mr. Thompson’s many grandchildren, Adella S. Thompson of Lenoir City, TN (B. Ray Thompson, Sr. passed away from cancer in 1987). As a B. Ray Thompson Professor, you can expect outreach from TCE’s Associate Director of Stewardship (currently Kathleen Kim-Baker) for this yearly stewardship update.