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Space Institute Names Circle for Professor Rover Young

The large circle in front of The University of Tennessee Space Institute has been named “The Robert L. Young Circle,” Donald C. Daniel announced during a program honoring Professor Young, who died Oct. 31.

“We will invite the public to come back this spring when the sun is shining for another ceremony to formally dedicate the circle,” promised Daniel, UT associate vice president and UTSI’s chief operating officer.

Five speakers, including two professors who helped Young get classes started at the Institute after it opened on Sept. 24, 1964, joined Daniel in the “Celebration of Life” held Nov. 16 for the first academic director, associate dean, and professor of aeronautics and mechanical engineering. The Rev. Bill Starnes, a friend and fellow Rotarian with Young, gave the invocation.

Ronnie Young of Franklin, oldest of the Tullahoma professor’s three children, responded on behalf of the family. He said he learned from his father that “you love family, friends, and your work” and remember that family and friends wouldn’t “always be on your side.” His father also taught him that “it is better to give than receive,” Ronnie said, adding that after retiring in 1990 Young stayed busy for 16 years “doing things for other people.”

William Snyder, one of the first professors hired for the Institute and later Dean of Engineering and Chancellor at UT Knoxville, and Jimmy Wu, professor emeritus, recalled challenges they shared with Young when classes were held at AEDC while the UTSI building was under construction. An accomplished organist, Snyder, recalling “six wonderful years working with Bob,” whom he likened to a “brother,” also played some of Young’s favorite songs during the program.

“Bob was a leader who made us want to be the best we could be,” Snyder said.

William Kimzey, former chairman of the UTSI Support Council who earned two degrees at UTSI, read from a letter he wrote to Bob Young the morning of the celebration. He recalled their first meeting in 1962 while Young was in charge of the UT-AEDC graduate program at AEDC before UTSI was established.

John Rampy, one of three lieutenants sent from the Air Force Institute of Technology as full-time students in the fall of 1964, recounted Young’s tireless efforts to get the academic program off the ground. Rampy praised him as an educator who helped his students grow. Young used “reverse logic” in formulating his tests, Rampy recalled, making them complex and challenging.

K.C. Reddy, professor emeritus and former academic dean, recalled a friendship extending over 40 years and remembered that Young was well-liked and respected at the Institute as well as at UT Knoxville because of his integrity.

Numerous friends and former colleagues attended the ceremony including Ken Tempelmeyer, one-time head of UTSI’s Energy Conversion Program and professor of engineering science at the Institute, Kenneth Harwell, former UTSI dean, professor and once dean of the Institute’s Gas Diagnostic Division, Robert Dietz, former director of the von Karman Institute in Belgium and long-time Support Council member and Mrs. Dietz, and Dick Farrar, chairman of the Support Council.

At the conclusion, Young was given “the last word” when a recording was played in which he spoke of having had the rare opportunity of being “involved in something which started from very little, but has become quite significant…”