A host of friends, co-workers, and professional associates joined family members in packing the cafeteria just before Christmas to honor Joel W. Muehlhauser prior to his Dec. 31 retirement from The University of Tennessee Space Institute.
Top officials from UT Knoxville joined Donald C. Daniel in thanking Muehlhauser for his service to the “entire UT system” during the past 40 years since he entered UTSI as a graduate student.
Adjectives used by a host of speakers included “team player, problem-solver, knowledgeable, energetic, enthusiastic, professional, pleasant, good executive officer, versatile, inspiring, diligent, multi-talented to describe the retiring UT assistant vice president and UTSI research dean from the Blanton’s Chapel Community near Manchester.
John Petersen, UT president, and Jack Britt, executive vice president, both acknowledged Muehlhauser’s contributions to the entire UT system and praised his ability to work with others. Britt mentioned also the active rotarian’s contributions to “the communities and this area.”
“Joel loves UTSI, and UTSI loves him,” said Daniel, UT associate vice president and chief operating officer of the Institute, who presided at the afternoon event. “His knowledge has blessed us all.”
Others attending from Knoxville included Carol Petersen, wife of the president, Dan Stewart, special assistant to the executive vice president, and his wife Becky, Ms. Lillian Mashburn, UTK’s Office of Federal Relations, Robert Levy, UT vice president for academics, Lee L. Riedinger, interim vice chancellor for research, J. Robert Walker, associate general counsel, Arlene A. Garrison, assistant vice president, UTK’s office of research, Bob Hillhouse, director of UT’s web services, and DJohn Hopkins, UT Research Corporation.
Kenneth E. Harwell, former dean and research professor at the Space Institute, spoke of Muehlhauser’s “diligence, hard work, and reliability,” adding that “he is a utility outfielder who could play any position.”
Y.C.L. Susan Wu, former UTSI professor who preceded Muehlhauser as administrator of the Institute’s Energy Conservation Program, said Muehlhauser “always thinks of others first.” She also recalled her friendship with an ECP secretary, Sue Clifton of Tullahoma, when she was dating her future husband.
State Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma read from a “certificate of merit” signed by Gov. Phil Bredesen, thanking Muehlhauser for his dedication to the Institute, and also a proclamation passed in the State House of Representatives in honor of Muehlhauser’s long service to UTSI.
In expressing his thanks to the speakers and to everyone attending – with special thanks to his wife — Muehlhauser recognized his long-time friend and former classmate at Shelbyville’s Central High School, Fred Shofner. Upon returning from service as a naval officer in the Vietnam conflict in the summer of 1966, Muehlhauser took his mother’s advice and drove his Thunderbird to the Institute to see Shofner, a young professor. Following Shofner’s suggestion, Muehlhauser enrolled at the Institute and in 1974 earned a Ph.D. in Physics. Otherwise, Muehlhauser said, “I might not be standing here, 40 years later.”
Charles Wharton, recently appointed by the governor as a UT trustee, also attended the event. Now a resident of Winchester, Wharton also attended Shelbyville’s high school with Muehlhauser.
Co-workers gave Muehlhauser a Gerstner cherry tool chest for his wood-working tools. The Institute’s Support Council chairman, Dick Farrar, presented him a base for the chest, and a portrait of the honoree by Remi Engels, former UTSI professor – both gifts from the Council.
The Muehlhauser’s son Eric flew in from Chicago to join his parents, his sister and brother-in-law Emmely and Michael Duncan of Franklin, and their daughter Caroline at the celebration.
Daniel thanked Madge Gibson of Winchester, Muehlhauser’s long-time secretary, for her “tremendous job” of planning the event. William Kimzey, past chairman of the Support Council, gave the invocation. More than 150 persons attended.
Muehlhauser wore many hats while at the Institute, including serving as chief information officer and in 1993 also served as interim vice president of UTSI. As research dean, he made numerous visits to the nation’s capitol as well as to various research facilities around the country. He was deeply involved during UTSI’s intense work with magnetohydrodynamics (MHD).
Son of Wesley Muehlhauser of Shelbyville and the late Hulda Jensen Muehlhauser, Joel as a boy moved with the family from Sandusky, Ohio, to Shelbyville.