World War II
|Clay and Mary|
It has often been said that actions speak louder than words. This could not be any truer than in the life of the late Tennessee Tech alum Clay Hixson. Though practically speechless the last 13 years of his life, his giving spirit led Clay to make one of the largest gifts in engineering’s history.
Clay Newell Hixson grew up on a rural Bledsoe County farm, learning as a young boy the value of hard work. Clay carried this trait with him as he served, like many men of his age, in the Navy during World War II. After leaving the service, Clay entered Tennessee Tech in the spring of 1950. Wiring houses in the evenings and on the weekends, Clay scraped the money together to pay for his education. Through hard work and dedication, Clay managed to earn an
electrical engineering degree in just three years, graduating in December 1953.
Shortly after graduation, Clay was hired on by the Tennessee Valley Authority as an electrical engineer, and spent the next 30 years with the organization. He retired to his Cleveland, TN home in 1983 to enjoy the good life.
Though he never married, Clay was fortunate to have met a wonderful lady who not only became a “traveling” companion, but also a special friend and caregiver. Mary Northrup and Clay became good friends in the 1960’s. After Clay retired, they enjoyed traveling together to various parts of the country.
Clay’s happy retirement was dampened in 1996 when he suffered a stroke. Among other things, the stroke severely affected his speech. Fortunately, Mary was there to help, and she became Clay’s full-time caregiver
Though he was unable to express it verbally in his later years, one of Clay’s greatest loves was Tennessee Tech. Any conversation that centered on the university brought a look of delight on his face. Surrounding himself in his home with TTU memorabilia, Clay always made it clear that in his mind, his success in life was due much to his experiences at the university.
Sadly, Clay passed away in April 2009. However, his legacy will live on through a $1.5 million unrestricted estate gift to the College of Engineering. Clay’s wishes are to ensure that Tech grows and delivers to others the excellent education it gave him. With this undying love, Clay Hixson will prove, once again, that actions truly speak louder than words.