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Entrepreneur and educator Lee Martin honored with 2022 “Nathan W. Dougherty Award”

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Well-known Knoxville entrepreneur and later educator Lee Martin has been recognized with the 2022 “Nathan W. Dougherty Award.”

Named in honor of the former Dean of what is now known as the Tickle College of Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the award has been presented annually since 1957, one year after Dougherty retired after 16 years as Dean. It is awarded to engineers who have brought honor and distinction to the college through their achievements or who have made significant contributions to the engineering profession in Tennessee through their professional activities.

“Recipients of the Nathan W. Dougherty Award have established themselves as pioneering engineers – inventors, managers, researchers, professors, and leaders of industry,” the Tickle College writes on the Dougherty Award website. “In their own right, each recipient’s engineering prowess has advanced the engineering profession. Collectively, however, this grouping of professionals represents an echelon of engineering achievement that is truly outstanding.”

Martin (pictured right accepting the award last night) was recognized at the Tickle College’s annual “Faculty and Staff Awards Dinner” last night at the Student Union Building. Nearly a decade ago in one of our earliest teknovation.biz multi-part series (Part 1 and Part 2), he described his journey as a researcher, entrepreneur, and educator. It started with the founding of TeleRobotics International Inc. in July 1986 on his own patents in robotics and image processing. The company changed its name to Omniview in 1994 and to iPIX two years later. Martin left the company in 1999, about the time iPIX went public.

Later, he helped launch the Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (TTDC) during the administration of Governor Don Sundquist, and that organization is doing business today as Launch Tennessee. During his tenure as TTDC Executive Director, Martin crafted an initiative called the “Technopreneurial Program.” The concept was best characterized by Chuck Witkowski, then a student entrepreneur, as “come for a degree, leave with a company.”

Eight and one-half years later, we again had the opportunity to cast the teknovation.biz spotlight on Martin as he was bringing to an end a 13-year career as a faculty member in the Tickle College along with a couple of other start-up endeavors. During the interview, he announced his plans to once again become an entrepreneur in a very uncharacteristically non-engineering field, or at least we thought so. That article can be found here, and Martin told us at last night’s Tickle College awards event that he has 800 members of the new venture.

Nathan Dougherty for whom the award is named was clearly a campus legend. He was a captain of Tennessee’s football and basketball teams as a student athlete in the early 1900s, hired legendary Big Orange football Coach Robert Neyland, and served as acting Commissioner of the Southeastern Conference in 1947. Dougherty was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

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