College of Engineering Names First Woman to Endowed Professorship

hairong_qiUT is continuing its recent growth and making a little history in the process, courtesy of a recent endowment announcement by Ralph and Connie Gonzalez.

Professor Hairong Qi has been named to the Gonzalez Family Endowed Professorship in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, making her the first woman to hold an endowed professorship in the College of Engineering.

“This sets a high bar and encourages me to live up to his legacy,” said Qi. “The resources provided will allow us to build a world-class image processing program and add to that legacy.”

For Ralph Gonzalez, a former head and longtime member of the department, the opportunity to continue his support of UT even in retirement was too good to pass.

“We established the Gonzalez Family Endowment Fund in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science nearly twenty years ago to enhance its resources to recognize superior achievements by faculty and staff,” Gonzalez said. “My years as a professor taught me the importance of nurturing teaching and research, and that a department seeking excellence can’t get there without a competent and dedicated staff.

“We aim though our endowment to recognize the crucial role played by both of those, with this endowed professorship being just one more step in increasing the level of our commitment.”

Gonzalez came to UT in 1970 and joined what was then called the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. He spent more than a quarter century there, rising to department chair for his last few years before retiring.

In an odd way, that retirement helped spark today’s announcement.

“I was first hired to fill his position after his retirement and now, fifteen years later, I’ve been selected for his named professorship,” said Qi. “My gratitude and excitement are beyond words.”

Even while working for UT, Gonzalez began to give back, making a major gift in 1989 and continuing to donate to the department in the intervening years. His gifts have included the Gonzalez Family Faculty and Staff Endowment and the Gonzalez Family Engineering Global Initiatives Endowment.

“Ralph and Connie have been tremendous supporters of our college and our university over the years, ” said College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis. “Their establishing the professorship has allowed us to help highlight the work of Professor Qi and put a spotlight on her role in that department.”

Qi was chosen for the position because of her knowledge of image processing and computer vision.

Her expertise in image processing, in particular, ties into a key part of Gonzalez’s background, as he founded Perceptics Corporation in 1982 and molded it into a leader in that field, eventually selling it to the Westinghouse Corporation in 1989.

Qi has won numerous awards for her research and papers, including recognition from the National Science Foundation and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

C O N T A C T :

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)