W. Dwight Kessel, Jr. (’50)

Category: Alumni Service | Awards

A prominent Knoxville figure and industrial engineering alumnus, Wallace Dwight Kessel and his wife, Gloria Grubb Kessel (’53), are loyal Vols and proud Tennesseans.

Kessel, who also attended Duke University and the US Naval Academy, was working with Chapman Drugs when neighbors suggested he run for public office. He organized a campaign and won, serving on the Knoxville City Council (1963–66), as Knox County Clerk (1966–80), and as the first Knox County Executive in 1980—a position he held for 14 years. His various business interests have included real estate investments; the conversion of the Farragut Hotel into office space; Chapman Drug Company, which he built into a multistate chain; and one of the nation’s first local internet companies—U.S. Internet.

His community involvement goes far beyond political positions, as he has served with Boy Scouts of America, the Greater Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, the Girls Club, Knox County Health Council, Development Corporation of Knox County, Juvenile Court Advisory Board, the East Tennessee Foundation, and many more. He also has been a member of the West Knoxville Kiwanis Club for more than 60 years.

Due to his commitment to the Knoxville community, several buildings have been named after Kessel, including the Wallace Dwight Kessel Girls Club Gymnasium, Dwight Kessel Pavilion, Dwight Kessel Garage, and Dwight and Gloria Kessel Auditorium at UT. He is also the 2014 recipient of the Tickle College of Engineering’s prestigious Nathan W. Dougherty Award.

Kessel and his wife have been loyal supporters of the university and have established scholarships, professorships, and fellowships in the Tickle College of Engineering. They also created an endowment for UT’s Institute for Public Service to assist county governments in the state. He has served on the UT College of Engineering Board of Advisors, the UT Chancellor’s Associates, the UT Alumni Association, and the UT Development Council.
W. Dwight Kessel
2013 Alumni Service Award Winner