The Distinguished Alumnus, Outstanding Service and Outstanding Young Alumnus awards are the highest bestowed by the university's alumni association. They recognize those who have demonstrated professional excellence and achievement or outstanding service to the university.
This year’s Distinguished Alumnus award winners are Richard Melvyn Smith, retired Chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology for the Federal Communications Commission and Richard Turner, a research fellow at Eastman Chemical Co.
The awards reception and ceremony will take place at 4 p.m., Nov. 5, in the Roaden University Center Tech Pride Room. The public is encouraged to attend the free event.
Richard Melvyn Smith
A recipient of the Federal Communication’s highest award, the Gold Medal Award, Richard Melvyn Smith (electrical engineering, ’63) has made significant contributions to the field of telecommunications. During Smith’s 35-year career at the FCC, he rose to the highest engineering level, serving as Chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology.
He began his FCC career in Los Angeles as a field engineer and radio spectrum management specialist. He specialized in radio direction finding, electromagnetic compatibility and technical standards activities designed to ensure the best use of the radio spectrum.
In 1981, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the U.S. Government Senior Executive Service, and a year later he was named as Chief of Field Operations Bureau. In this position he was responsible for all engineering activities conducted by FCC field offices and radio monitoring stations.
Appointed Chief of the Office of Engineering in 1994, a position he held until his retirement, Smith’s responsibilities included management of the FCC laboratory and development of policy regarding spectrum allocation and technical standards. His last FCC project was the development of the HDTV table of allotments.
Since his retirement, Smith has advised foreign telecommunications bodies looking to privatize the communications industry.
“I have been very impressed with the large number of consulting activities that he has been engaged in during his retirement,” said TTU’s College of Engineering Dean Glen Johnson. “He is clearly widely respected at the highest levels of government around the world and appears to be in very high demand as many foreign countries establish improved communications structures.”
In his service to TTU, Smith is credited with being a major stabilizing force for TTU’s Engineering Development Foundation and served as the foundation’s president for 2003-2004. A member of TTU’s President’s Club, he also is active in supporting the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He received the College of Engineering’s Engineer of Distinction Award in 2003.
Smith and his wife, Patti, live in Jackson County. Their son and daughter-in-law, both attorneys in the telecommunications sector, live and work near Washington, D.C.
Alumnus Richard Turner (chemistry, ’64, ’66) ranks as one of Tennessee’s Top Ten Scientists, a group identified in Business TN magazine’s March 2004 issue as the most prolific, accomplished or up-and-coming scientists working to change the world.
Turner, who was recently appointed director of the new Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute at Virginia Tech, will retire as a research fellow at Eastman Chemical Co.’s Polymer Technology Division at the end of the year and begin his new position with Virginia Tech early next year.
“Our chemistry program has had a long tradition of graduating students who have had an important impact on industries of our state and nation that depend on the science of chemistry and materials,” said Scott Northrup, TTU’s Chemistry Department chairperson. “One of the finest examples is Dr. Richard Turner.”
At Eastman, Turner has worked for some of the top industrial laboratories in the world, including Xerox, ExxonMobil and Kodak. He joined Eastman in 1993 and has led efforts to improve Eastman's plastics and introduce new products to the marketplace. He holds 97 patents in polymer chemistry and has authored 82 publications in the field.
His current projects include creating new types of plastics that have enhanced resistance to thermal deformations and improving clear plastics used in medical settings that need to be see-through and resistant to medical fluids and sterilization processes. His colleagues laud his understanding of business and marketing strategies essential to getting new products into the marketplace. He conducts much of his research with the goal of adding value to a company looking to create a new, improved or less expensive product.
The Nashville native was named a Fellow by the Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering Division of the American Chemical Society in 2002. He also is a member of the advisory board of the Petroleum Research Fund and has served on several National Science Foundation review panels.
A former TTU baseball player, Turner credits the late professor Vernon Allen for being his mentor and friend and encouraging him to pursue graduate work and his subsequent career.
In gratitude to Allen, Turner helped TTU’s Chemistry Department establish the Vernon Allen Memorial Scholarship Fund. He also stays connected to TTU by visiting campus and working with current Chemistry Department Chairperson Scott Northrup on opportunities to speak to students.
“As a first generation college student, I probably never would have gone on to graduate school had I been in a large department,” Turner said. “The individual attention I received at Tennessee Tech, the encouragement from my professors and the opportunity to obtain my master’s degree in chemistry all opened many doors for me.”