Engineers week at Tennessee Tech includes honors for faculty, staff and alumni

Tennessee Tech University will recognize top engineering faculty, staff and alumni during Engineers Week, Feb. 18 – Feb. 22.

“What better way to celebrate the engineering profession than to bring in alumni who can communicate to our students the importance of becoming Renaissance engineers,” said Joseph Rencis, dean of the College of Engineering.

“We’re working to develop the mentality across the engineering disciplines that the first responsibility of engineers is to positively impact society, and that concept is something our faculty and successful alumni demonstrate on a daily basis.”

The college will honor seven individuals at a banquet Thursday, Feb. 21. A complete schedule of E-week events for students is at

A new addition to the Engineers Week awards this year is an honor for college staff. TTU alumna Etter Staggs, business administration ’83, will receive the Outstanding Staff Award. Staggs joined the Center for Energy Systems Research in 1986 and has served as financial analyst since 1995. She manages the center’s financial resources and oversees daily administrative operations. Staggs also monitors the budgets of state appropriations and grant funds and helps prepare grant proposals.

Staggs is married to Mike Staggs and has two sons and a daughter-in-law, Brandon and Brian and Britney. Her parents are J.T. and Charlotte Foster.

The college will honor three faculty members for their achievements.

The Brown-Henderson Award recipient is Holly Stretz, an associate professor in chemical engineering. Stretz has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Texas A&M University, a master’s degree in polymer chemistry from Texas State University, and a doctoral degree from the University of Texas. 

Before coming to TTU in 2005, Stretz taught high school chemistry for 11 years. Her industrial experience includes work at Celanese and Advanced Micro Devices. In collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratories, Stretz developed TTU’s first graduate course in polymer engineering. She designed a curriculum for the CHE 1010 connections class based on a Rube Goldberg design, and she is an instructor for the Governor’s School for Emerging Technologies.

Her research focus is controlling patterning and dispersion of nanoparticles in the presence of polymers, which is implemented in the fields of water treatment, fire resistance, solar cells and medical diagnostics. She carries two U.S. patents at TTU associated with medical diagnostics. 

The 2013 recipient of the Kinslow Award is electrical and computer engineering professor Satish Mahajan. A senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Mahajan has published more than 130 journal papers and articles. His research on smart electrical grids deals with measuring overhead transmission lines, estimating the age of electrical power devices based on condition, and using nanoparticle doped sensors to make magneto-optic measurements.

Mahajan has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Poona, India, a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the State University of New York, and a doctoral degree from the University of South Carolina.

Manufacturing and engineering technology professor Ismail Fidan will receive the Sissom Award. Fidan has a bachelor’s degree from Anadolu University, a master’s degree from Istanbul Technical University, and a doctoral degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His research interests include electronics manufacturing, additive manufacturing, knowledge based systems and automation. He has published articles in several peer-reviewed journals, including the Rapid Prototyping Journal, and has served as technical reviewer on more than 2,000 articles.

Fidan organized a service learning opportunity between TTU and Turkey’s Celal Bayar University in 2012 that gave business and engineering students a chance to develop packaging and plan a market launch of Turkish products in the U.S.

Three Tennessee Tech alumni have made notable achievements in engineering and will be recognized by the College of Engineering as well.

Chris Privon, mechanical engineering ’70, is one of two Engineers of Distinction. Privon has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Virginia and is a retiree of Hewlett Packard. At Hewlett Packard, he had various responsibilities in the LaserJet printer business and was vice president of Imaging and Printing Group Services.

Privon and his wife, Keron (Chew), industrial engineering ’80, serve on strategic planning teams for the College of Engineering.

The second Engineer of Distinction is Marilyn Lewis, civil engineering ’78. Lewis has a master’s degree in engineering administration from The University of Tennessee. As chief of the Engineering Division for the Louisville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, she oversees large civil works and military construction projects in a five-state area. She has been with the Corps of Engineers for 19 years.

Lewis serves on the TTU Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Advisory Board.

She is married to TTU alumnus Rick Lewis, civil engineering, math ’77. Their son, Justin, and daughter, Emily, are engineers as well.

The 2013 Computer Scientist of Distinction is Mary Patterson, math ’68. A retiree of IBM, Patterson has an executive MBA from Carnegie Mellon University.

At IBM, Patterson developed operating systems and products related to file management, database and networking. She was director of network consulting for North America when she retired. She has worked with Turner Broadcasting and as a consultant for two startup software companies as well.

Originally from Nashville, Patterson is a graduate of Donelson High School. She is executive committeewoman for District 17 of the Tennessee Democratic Executive Committee and a member of the Nashville Women’s Political Caucus. She serves on the Board of Advisors for the Department of Computer Science at TTU. 

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