“I appreciate the tradition and the idea of a graduate school dedicated to science,” John E. Caruthers told more than 150 well-wishers at a reception for the retiring leader and long-time professor of The University of Tennessee Space Institute.
“As has been said,” Caruthers added, “if such an institution did not exist, we would need to build one.” He said he had been deeply touched by 18th Century Poet Edward Young’s belief that “Too low they build who build beneath the stars.”
Caruthers’ remarks, peppered with light-hearted reminiscing, concluded an evening of praise and ribbing, multiple gifts and honors – including the title of “B.H. Goethert Professor Emeritus” – at a party hosted by the UTSI Support Council at the Arnold Lakeside Club.
He expressed agreement with Madame Curie’s view that “Humanity needs practical men, who get the most out of their work, and, without forgetting the general good, safeguard their own interests. But humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. A well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.”
Corralled by Joseph E. Johnson, President Emeritus of UT as master of ceremonies, nearly 20 speakers and presenters roasted and toasted Caruthers, UT associate vice president and chief operating officer of the Space Institute during the three-hour gathering on May 23. He is retiring June 30; his successor, Don Daniel is scheduled to arrive at the Institute in early June.
UT President John Petersen thanked Caruthers for taking on a “very difficult challenge of working with others on a strategic plan for UTSI.” This was, Petersen said, “very hard with lots of extenuating factors, to turn things around. John showed phenomenal perseverance and a good sense of humor and while he took his job seriously, he did not take himself seriously.” The president predicted a “bright future” for the 42-year-old Institute.
It was Jack Britt, UT executive vice resident, who announced that Caruthers – who held two chaired professorships before his administrative position — is retiring with the “emeritus” title. Britt cited indebtedness to Caruthers for helping UTSI “regain its luster and continue to be of particular value to this nation.”
Ed Kraft, a member of the Support Council Executive Committee, read a letter from Gov. Phil Bredesen. In it, the governor noted that Caruthers had “touched many lives,” and he referenced their personal association and shared interest in aeronautics.
State Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma presented a framed joint resolution passed by the Tennessee House of Representatives and Senate, under his and Senator Jerry Cooper’s sponsorship. Judd predicted “blue skies ahead” for UTSI.
Gifts from the Support Council included a rocking chair and a gift certificate toward purchase of a farm tractor.
Dick Farrar of Fayetteville, chairman of the Support Council, welcomed those attending and in concluding remarks noted that “it is hard to grow the Support Council without money” and acknowledged Dan Pierre and Sverdrup Technology Inc. for their assistance in sponsoring the event. Farrar further stated that “working together, we will grow the Support Council and in turn assist with growing UTSI.”
Caruthers’ wife Susan, one of their sons, Brian Caruthers from UT, and a niece, Sarah Norred, were present. Their other children are Ben and Jana. Remi Engels, retired UTSI professor and close friend, did a portrait of Caruthers, and Linda Engels, communications coordinator at UTSI, dedicated an original poem to Caruthers.
Other major participants for the evening included Brig. General David Stringer, AEDC commander, Ewing J. Threet, a founder and charter member of the Support Council, Kenneth Harwell, former UTSI dean and one of Caruthers’ professors at Auburn University, Bob Young, UTSI professor emeritus and former associate dean at the Institute;
Bill Kimzey, former Support Council chairman, Dan Pierre, Joe Lester, members of the Support Council Executive Committee, Kathy Gattis, Support Council member, Steve May, Jack Daniel Distillery, and Joel W. Muehlhauser, UT assistant vice president and UTSI dean for research and development.