Tennessee Tech to award honorary degrees to two notable alumni

Harry Stonecipher (left) will receive an honorary doctorate in engineering and Millard Oakley (right) will receive an honorary doctorate in agriculture on May 7.

COOKEVILLE – Spring commencement at Tennessee Tech will bring an outdoor celebration and the conferring of honorary degrees to two alumni who have given Tech students extraordinary support and service. 

Harry Stonecipher will receive an honorary doctorate in engineering and Millard Oakley will receive an honorary doctorate in agriculture on May 7, when more than 1,400 graduates will gather in Tucker Stadium. 

“Tech has awarded only two honorary degrees in its history, to astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Roger Crouch, so this is a significant step to acknowledge the accomplishments and support of these men,” Tech President Phil Oldham said. 

Honorary degrees provide a way to honor persons whose careers reflect sustained and superlative achievement in their professions, research, scholarship, public service, leadership, volunteerism and/or cultural affairs, as well as new frontiers of human endeavor. 

Stonecipher has shaped our nation’s aerospace industry and stands as one of Tennessee Tech’s most highly accomplished alumni. His indelible mark came from his careers at General Electric Co, Sunstrand Corp., McDonnell Douglas and Boeing Co. 

“Over decades, Harry has supported the university in efforts to engage students,” Oldham said. “He has often turned back to the campus he loves and sponsored lectureships, projects and new construction.”

The former Tennessee Tech physics student started his career at GE as a senior lab technician, but by the early 1980s, he headed the entire aircraft engine product operations. 

He left GE for Sunstrand, becoming president, CEO and eventually chairman of the board of directors. By 1994, he was elected president and CEO of McDonnell Douglas, and led the company’s merger with Boeing. He retired as the vice chairman and president and CEO of Boeing.  

His personal commitment to Tennessee Tech includes chairing its first major capital campaign and serving as chairperson for the first Foundation Board of Directors and National Board of Advisors. 

Oakley often shares his desire to put more into society than he takes out. 

“Millard is committed to making a better world for all,” said Oldham. “His service to the university has been great, but he also is dedicated to community building and education efforts throughout the region.”

Examples of his community service include the Millard V. Oakley County Services Building that opened in Fall 2020 in Livingston and the public library in Overton County that bears his name. 

With financial gifts and gifts of service, he has transformed Tennessee Tech’s campus for the betterment of students. In 2010, the university opened the Millard Oakley Center for the Teaching and Learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In 2015, he donated Hartsaw Cove Farm, one of the state’s Pioneer Century Farms.

He served on the Tennessee Board of Regents and was appointed to Tennessee Tech’s inaugural Board of Trustees by former Gov. Bill Haslam in 2017. 

Tennessee Tech’s spring commencement will be held in two ceremonies, at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., on Friday, May 7, with a rain date on May 8. 

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