John (’65) and Ann (’65) Tickle

Category: Awards | Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna

2012 Distinguished Alumni Award Winners

John and Ann Tickle exemplify the spirit of giving back. While their financial contributions have made an immediate and noticeable impact on campus, they continue to show their love for their alma mater by giving of their time and enthusiasm—an act that goes even beyond their significant personal gifts to the university. They are advocates for higher education—and UT in particular—with their voices being heard in their communities as well as in Nashville.

Ann has always had a deep passion for education. Not only was it her academic major, it also was the focus of her career as host of the popular television show Romper Room. Pre-dating Sesame Street, the show was an educationally based program that taught basic skills and encouraged young minds. She also launched the first Head Start program in Sullivan County, Tennessee, and taught the first public kindergarten in Bristol, Virginia.

Tickle used his engineering background to build a highly successful manufacturing company, Strongwell Corporation, on principles of integrity and hard work. Tickle, who earned the rank of Eagle Scout, received the Heroism Award from the National Court of Honor of the Boy Scouts of America in June 2012. He has also been inducted into the Junior Achievement of Tri-Cities TN/VA Hall of Fame.

Together, the Tickles are a team with personal values that have led them to achieve excellence in all they do.

The Tickles served as vice chairs for the Campaign for Tennessee. Tickle has served on the UT Board of Trustees, the Engineering Campaign Executive Committee, the College of Engineering’s Board of Advisors, and the UT Athletics Board. Ann has been a member of the Development Council and continues to serve on the Alliance of Women Philanthropists.

In 2016, the College of Engineering was named the John D. Tickle College of Engineering in honor of the Tickles’ longtime support of UT. The Tickles have made several transformational gifts establishing the John D. Tickle Engineering Building, the Tickle Graduate Fellows program, and Tickle Professorships.

What advice would you go back and give yourself as a college freshman?

In looking back, the obvious answer is that a harder work ethic and a constant focus on the tasks at hand would always provide a better result.

How did UT affect your life?

We both feel that we received excellent educations at the University of Tennessee. We both had immediate job offers following graduation, and our first jobs formed the basis of our entire professional careers. Our educations served us well, and we are grateful for our experiences at UT.