Mancil W. Milligan Sr. (’56 ’58, ’63)

Category: Accomplished Alumni


Kivanc Ekici and Blake Hudson present the Accomplished Alumni award to Mancil Milligan

Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering Department Head Kivanc Ekici and Senior Director of Development Blake Hudson present alumnus and Professor Emeritus Mancil Milligan with an Accomplished Alumni Award.

Alumnus and Professor Emeritus Mancil Milligan (’56, ’58, ’63) was recently honored with UT’s Accomplished Alumni Award at a Tickle College of Engineering departmental awards banquet. The Accomplished Alumni Award program honors alumni who have significantly contributed to their field and profession or who have distinguished themselves through civic engagement or volunteer roles in their communities.

“I was a little taken aback,” says Milligan. “But I was pleased, and I really enjoyed getting to see old friends and students at the banquet.”

Milligan began his undergraduate career at UT Martin before the school had a mechanical engineering major. Following his second year of college, he transferred to UT Knoxville to finish his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

After graduating in 1956, Milligan started a job with Boeing in Seattle, Washington.

“My job at Boeing involved working on an orbital vehicle, and this was before NASA,” Milligan laughs. “I was very interested in space and working in that industry, but I realized I didn’t have enough education to contribute the way I wanted to.”

He came back to UT to teach full time and earn his master’s degree in mechanical engineering before going back to work for Boeing. It was during his second stint at Boeing that he received a call from a mentor, Joel Bailey, who was then head of UT’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering.

“Joel called me and said, ‘We’ve got a PhD program now, and I think you ought to come back and teach and earn your PhD,’” Milligan recalls. “By the time I finished my PhD I was pretty well intoxicated with teaching and research, so I decided to stay in the university environment.”

Milligan’s faculty career at UT spanned 45 years in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering, including nine years as department head. In addition to academic activities, he spent 30 years as a part-time executive pilot for the university.

“I flew mostly at night on the weekends, when the regular pilots needed time off,” recalls Milligan. “I met a lot of interesting people and had a lot of interesting experiences serving the university in that way.

“I flew Pat Summitt a lot throughout the years on her recruitment and scouting trips,” says Milligan. “She was a first-class lady. That was one of the beauties of flying for the university. The people were just first class, which made the job enjoyable.”

Although his career was full of excitement, from flying UT icons to researching groundbreaking technology, what Milligan enjoyed the most was interacting with students—more than 5,000 students over the years through the classes he taught.

“What ultimately kept me at UT were the students and my colleagues,” says Milligan. “There’s just a sense of satisfaction in helping students learn and seeing them blossom.

“Connecting with past students was one of the greatest aspects of email coming along,” adds Milligan. “I started getting emails from students I hadn’t heard from in 20 years. It was very satisfying to see where they were in their careers and in life.”

After a long, storied career with UT, Milligan retired from faculty in 2006 but continued flying part-time for UT until 2017. His influence, research, and teaching have helped shape the university into the place it is today. Now it’s his turn to be honored.

UT is proud to recognize Milligan for his impact at UT and in the engineering profession.