The Engineers of Distinction program honors alumni and others whose careers have contributed to or reflected credit on the college's academic program. The two outstanding engineers, both 1962 mechanical engineering alumni, honored this year are Leighton E. Sissom, a former TTU College of Engineering dean; and Jerry Childs, retired vice president and manager with Science Applications International Corp.
Sissom and Childs will be honored at the annual Engineering Week banquet on Thursday, Feb. 22, at TTU, which serves as the culmination of the week's events highlighting engineering students and faculty at the university.
Sissom's career is intertwined with Tennessee Tech's history; over four decades he was a student, a professor, a department chairperson and a dean at the university.
Sissom came to TTU (then Tennessee Polytechnic Institute) as a mechanical engineering and engineering science instructor and, while teaching, earned his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1962. He went on to earn his master's and doctorate at the Georgia Institute of Technology and then returned to TTU as a faculty member.
In 1965, Sissom was named the chairman of the Mechanical Engineering Department, and then was selected as dean of the College of Engineering in 1979. During his tenure, the college became known nationally and internationally for its excellence.
His long list of accomplishments include national and international awards for his contributions to engineering education and for notable contributions to global engineering standards. He also served as an officer on many national governing boards for engineering societies.
A registered Professional Engineer and Certified Diplomat Forensic Engineer, Sissom has served as a consultant to more than 700 clients in more than 40 states and 11 foreign countries, including evaluation of 92 U.S. universities and 23 universities in nine foreign countries. He has written more than 100 papers, more than 2,000 proprietary reports, contributed to the Encyclopedia Britannica and to the Wiley Encyclopedia of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, and co-authored four books.
A native of Manchester, Tenn., Sissom resides in Cookeville, where he has been an elder at the Jefferson Avenue Church of Christ for more than 20 years. He and his wife, Evelyn, have two sons and a daughter.
Childs, a 1962 TTU mechanical engineering graduate, recently retired from a 38-year career in which he distinguished himself in both government and commercial marketplaces. His achievements include successes in the fields of commercial nuclear power, uranium enrichment, nuclear weapons production and aerospace/defense.
Until his retirement in April 2000, he was the corporate vice president and manager of the Integrated Engineering Solutions Sector Business Unit with Science Applications International Corp. He began work with the $4.7 billion employee-owned SAIC in 1979, where his organization provided services and support to more than 60 government and commercial clients. His group also provided specialty products and services to domestic and international nuclear utilities.
Before joining SAIC, Childs was Manager of Management Systems with the Office of Nuclear Power at the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga. A manager of 1,500 employees, he was responsible for developing and implementing management systems for all TVA nuclear activities including four nuclear power plants, engineering and construction operations and other nuclear divisions.
Prior to working at TVA, he held several positions with the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, one of which gave him responsibility for DOE's program management of the Y-12 Plant weapons production operation. In another position, Childs directed the engineering, design and production of the centrifuge machines for the Gas Centrifuge Uranium Enrichment Plant project.
Childs, who now resides in Kingston and serves as a part-time consultant to SAIC, enjoys a variety of sports and is an active teacher and worker in his church. He and his wife, Rebecca, have three children and three grandchildren.