Mark Cox left UT with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering in 1989, but he never left the Volunteer spirit behind.
Now, in recognition of his professional achievements and devotion to the chemical engineering community, he has been elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).
The AIChE is the world’s largest professional organization for chemical engineers. Fellowship is the highest grade of membership available, accounting for just 3% of AIChE members.
“This fellowship is something I couldn’t have imagined,” said Cox, who has been a professional member of the AIChE for 33 years. “I’m grateful to be part of a group that has committed themselves to the science of chemical engineering, but more importantly, to dramatically improving the quality of life for every human being on the planet.”
Cox was nominated for the fellowship by a colleague at Eastman Chemical Company, where he worked for more than 36 years—starting as an engineering co-op student from UT and eventually serving as the company’s chief manufacturing, supply chain, and engineering officer.
This path was not always smooth for Cox, a first-generation student from a community with only a handful of college graduates. One of his clearest memories of Rocky Top is walking past Dougherty after receiving a D on his first chemical engineering exam and wondering how to move forward.
“Any time you try to do something to advance science or advance yourself, you will have moments of failure,” he said. “But you can’t let fear paralyze you. I loved chemistry because you could take the elements that God gave us here on Earth and actually engage in the creative process yourself, making new materials which might help humanity. So, I trusted the Lord and kept going forward.”
With support from his friends and professors, Cox continued his degree and made many more, happier memories on campus—including meeting his wife on the way to a pep rally.
Throughout his career, those memories of doubt and triumph have driven Cox to create opportunities for young Vols, working on the TCE Board of Advisors and enriching the partnership between Eastman and UT.
“Mark led the effort at Eastman Chemical to fund a complete rebuild of our CBE undergraduate teaching laboratory,” said Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Engagement and CBE faculty member Paul Frymier. “That upgrade to the quality and quantity of experimental equipment available to the students truly transformed our graduate and undergraduate CBE programs.”
For Cox, the laboratory upgrade and service on the Board were never about earning a fellowship, but about keeping the university’s mission alive.
“I just want to thank the university for fulfilling its mission as a land grant institution, for aiming to help every child in Tennessee get an education,” he said. “I was able to go to school thanks to the selfless generosity of the alumni who gave to my scholarship. Now it’s my turn to make sure that when students face that moment of crisis like I faced in front of Dougherty, they can see that others have been through it and are here to support them.”
Izzie Gall, (865-974-7203, firstname.lastname@example.org)