Donation to University of Tennessee establishes joint faculty for engineering, business

Innovative program to prepare engineers in both disciplines


A major gift from two University of Tennessee graduates has established the first-ever joint faculty positions between the colleges of Engineering and Business Administration.

A gift from Ralph and Janet Heath through the Heath Family Charitable Fund in the Community Foundation of North Texas has established the Heath Endowed Faculty Fellowship in business and engineering with the goal of enhancing the relationship between the two fields. 

Chanaka Edirisinghe, professor of statistics, operations, and management science, is the Heath Faculty Fellow in the College of Business Administration. Rupy Sawhney, a professor of industrial and information engineering, is the fellow in the College of Engineering.

“I believe strongly that engineering and business need to become more engaged at the university level so that when our graduates begin to practice and lead in industry they are better prepared.”

Ralph Heath, retired president, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics


This gift answers Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek's challenge to private supporters to help recruit and retain UT's most talented faculty. 

Ralph Heath received his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1970 and his MBA in 1975, from UT. He recently retired as president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. He is a founding and current member of the College of Business Administration's Aerospace and Defense Advisory Board, a lifetime member of the college's Advisory Council to the Dean, a member of the College of Engineering's Board of Advisors and a recipient of UT's Alumni Professional Achievement Award. He inspired the College of Business Administration to create its unique Aerospace and Defense MBA program. 

"I believe strongly that engineering and business need to become more engaged at the university level so that when our graduates begin to practice and lead in industry they are better prepared," said Heath. 

Janet Heath graduated in 1976 with a degree in food systems administration through the university's registered dietitian program. She enthusiastically supports the interaction between business and engineering and collaborated with her husband on the proposal for the joint faculty fellowship. 

Edirisinghe is the director of the Management Science doctoral program, co-director of the Business Analytics Forum and director of the college's Financial Engineering Research Laboratory. He specializes in operations research/management science with applications to financial investments, project management, supply chain coordination, reservoir scheduling and fleet routing. He is the developer of the financial trading strategy optimization and simulation software called Mi$OFT and a recipient of the prestigious 2009 Citation of Excellence Award by Emerald Management Reviews. 

"There is great wisdom, foresight and creativity in this gift from Ralph Heath, born from his lifetime of management experience in both engineering and business," said Steve Mangum, dean of the College of Business Administration. "The Heath Faculty Fellowship program provides specific opportunities for two leading faculty members from these two colleges to permeate barriers, be innovative, and initiate constructive dialogue and programming." 

Sawhney is a faculty member of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a joint effort between UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory focused on renewable energy; a 2006 Boeing Welliver Fellow; and a recipient of the Lean Fellowship since 1998. He specializes in the development of supply chain management models and enterprise improvement strategies, and integrating reliability into lean systems. Through his Lean Fellowship, he has worked to develop new methodologies and tools to make U.S. manufacturing more competitive. He has worked with more than 150 industrial and governmental organizations, including UT. 

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