Originally from Macon County, Tennessee, Wheeley started out studying agriculture at UT with plans of farming. But under advice of his guidance counselor he switched to chemical engineering. He worked for the chemical manufacturer Koppers Inc. for more than forty years before retiring and embarking on a career as a venture capitalist.
Wheeley later established the Venture Capital Center at UT to help find and support new local technologies. The Otto and Kathleen Wheeley Awards for Excellence in Technology Transfer are given annually to UT faculty members who excel in commercialization of university-based research.
Wheeley was named UT’s Volunteer of the Year in 2005 for his devotion to the university and the community.
Read more in the Knoxville News Sentinel.