Williams has been named the recipient of the university's 1996 Outstanding Professional Award for his numerous contributions to the university through teaching and research, as well as his significant role in contributing to the very fabric of Tennessee Tech's vast engineering program.
Marie Ventrice, associate dean of the College of Engineering, has, perhaps, known Williams longest; as an undergraduate she met him in 1965. In addition to terming him a "creative, innovative engineer and teacher," Ventrice credits him for his challenging research activities, which "have been essential to the successful completions of many projects."
As an undergraduate student, Williams worked in the engineering labs under the guidance of James Seay Brown and James Henderson, says Ted Lundy, director of the Manufacturing Center. After graduation and a stint in private industry, Williams joined the Tennessee Tech faculty in 1955. He left in 1975 to work with a private consulting firm, but by 1986 returned to take his current position with the Manufacturing Center.
"Don has been very helpful to me as a center director," says Lundy, "and to faculty associates in making suggestions which were cost effective. He works with others exceptionally well, listening attentively to any and all ideas. He then systematically pieces it all together so the ideas can be implemented -- usually giving all the credit to others.
"He has certainly represented the College of Engineering in a very dedicated manner in the almost 30 years he has worked for the university. Faculty rely on him heavily for assistance with experimentation. He is a person of the highest honesty, integrity and capability to fulfill his numerous roles within the center family."
From determining architectural specifications necessary to house the university's Centers of Excellence to helping guide students through lab projects to taking a leadership position on his own externally funded research, Williams has a record that, as one of his peers puts it, is especially "impressive for a gentleman who could be retired."
Recent Manufacturing Center research spearheaded by Williams includes the design and manufacture of four roll-over trucks for the Highway Patrol Safety Program, building air-bag demonstration cars for the state, testing the intensities of children's head impacts in falls from playground equipment (without human subjects) and ice ball impact studies simulating hail storm damage to aircraft.
As Outstanding Professional, Williams received a plaque and a $1,000 cash award. The awards program, established in 1993, was created to recognize outstanding professional staff and to accompany existing awards programs for Tennessee Tech faculty and clerical support staff members.