The impact of engineers is evident in any community, and the impact of Lipscomb University’s engineering program was evident on May 11 as ExxonMobil Production Co. President Neil Duffin and more than 300 engineers, business leaders, faculty, students and other guests gathered to officially dedicate the Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering’s new home — the Fields Engineering Center.
Duffin flew in from Houston the morning of the celebration to honor his friend, longtime ExxonMobil executive Charles Fields and his wife, Margaret, who made a significant financial contribution to the project and for whom the building is named.
“It is a pleasure to be here today to help celebrate this occasion with you,” said Duffin. “I have known Charles as a peer, as a colleague, as a boss and as a mentor. He really helped me progress through my career. If you wonder how I got to this position, he is a key reason for that. During his career, Charles distinguished himself as a brilliant engineer and as a manager who was a generous leader. That generosity is on display here today with this impressive new building where young students will begin their engineering journey and hopefully follow in Charles’ footsteps to a long and fulfilling career.”
“One of the reasons Charles was so successful with his career was because he understands that one of the keys to developing energy is developing a high-quality workforce. It takes thousands of engineers to discover the energy that we will require every day to light our homes, gas our cars and fuel our businesses,” continued Duffin, who joined Mobil Oil Company in 1979.
Fields was executive vice president of ExxonMobil Development Co., the company responsible for planning and executing all major oil and gas developments for the corporation, when he retired from the company in 2006 after 38 years of service.
?Duffin said he “took over that seat the very next day.” Duffin was president of ExxonMobil Development Co. for 10 years prior to his appointment as president of ExxonMobil Production Co. on Jan. 1, following the retirement of his predecessor Tom Walters. He also serves as a vice president of ExxonMobil Corp. A president of ExxonMobil Production Co., Duffin stewards production of over 3.3 million oil equivalent barrels per day in over 20 countries.
A 1964 graduate of Lipscomb Academy, Fields said he was honored to have Duffin join the celebration.
“Neil and I were great friends at Exxon, and I am glad to be able to be here today with him,” said Fields. “And Margie and I are thrilled to be here today to see this building. We first started talking to the university about a facility for engineers in 2009. I want to thank Dr. (Lipscomb president Randy) Lowry and the administration and the board of trustees for their vision. Over the years, the plans and vision for the facility grew. It’s just a fantastic facility.”
Fields said when he graduated from Lipscomb Academy he began a search for a university where he could pursue his dream of becoming an engineer.
“Lipscomb University wasn’t really on the radar,” he admitted. “If they would have had an engineering school it probably would have been. I went to Vanderbilt. I am really pleased that I did that, and it’s a great school. But it doesn’t have the Christian education that Lipscomb has to offer. Margie and I are particularly interested in sponsoring Christian organizations as well as educational organizations. Investing in Lipscomb allows us to do both. We have very much enjoyed our association with the school both when I was a student and by being involved in the building that stands behind me today.”
“We are thrilled to be part of this, but we are only part of this,” he said. “The professors and students deserve to have this facility that they now have.”
The 26,800-square-foot Fields Engineering Center replaces the previous engineering labs, classrooms and offices located in both the James D. Hughes Center and the McFarland Science Center on campus. Construction on the project began December 2015. The Fields Engineering Center opened its doors for the spring semester on Jan, 9, uniting engineering faculty and students under one roof for the first time.
“I am always delighted to dedicate a new academic building,” said Provost W. Craig Bledsoe. “This crowd speaks strongly to the importance of engineering to our daily lives, and the significant value that we believe we are producing with our workforce-ready engineering students when they graduate.”
The building houses collaborative learning spaces, flexible teaching areas and labs among other features. The building is also a learning tool in itself with its exposed and color coded MPE ducting, piping and conduit in lab and learning spaces; central monitoring of mechanical systems and rooftop access for solar experimentation. The sustainability features also provide valuable real-world learning opportunities for students. Features include; a white roof, energy-efficient lighting, mechanical and plumbing systems designed at a LEED silver level, storm water management through planting and infiltrations, climate-appropriate materials for site landscaping and concrete structure that includes recycled content.
“We have a deep sense of gratitude today,” said Justin Myrick, dean of the College of Engineering, “gratitude to Charles and Margie Fields who were the catalysis for this wonderful building, gratitude to President Lowry and the Lipscomb administration for believing in us, gratitude to David Scobey and the Lipscomb board both present and past for being willing to make the commitment to the project, gratitude to the other donors who played a vital part in getting us to where we are today and gratitude to all of those who have come before us who have played a role in this college.”
“This building is a current step in a journey we have been making since 1938 when we offered the first engineering class at Lipscomb. This journey has resulted in the school of engineering in 2000 thanks to the generosity of Ray and Libby Jones and to our physics faculty. Engineering came from physics, so we owe that program a lot. The school later became a college, and this journey led to three ABET-accredited degree programs that we have today among other successes.”
Senior electrical and computer engineering major Cailey Cline, said she is thankful for a facility that houses all programs and faculty in one location.
“But it’s about more than simply convenience,” said Cline. “We are more than just a college. We are family, and Fields is not just a building. It’s a home. Now that we have our own home we have space to work together, to succeed together and also to suffer together. There have already been many late nights in the labs.”
“More than books or answer sheets, the relationships that are formed here are what get us through this very difficult undergraduate curriculum,” she continued. “That’s the Lipscomb difference. It’s what makes us a family. So those of you who invest in this center, you didn’t just build walls and floors. You built Lipscomb engineers.”
Following the dedication ceremony, guests were invited to tour the facilities and to a lunch reception. Throughout the building, guests had the opportunity to experience a variety of demonstrations in the labs including a flume test in the thermal fluids lab, an earthquake simulator in the soils lab, a weather instrumentation project in the main lobby, a 3-D printer in the Scobey Innovation Lab and a robotics competition in the Robert A. And Mary Doris Adair Flex Classroom among others.
Named one of the best Christian-based engineering programs in Tennessee and No. 6 in the nation in a survey by Christian Universities Online, the Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering provides students the opportunity to prepare for an engineering career in an educational environment that also encourages Christian character.
Lipscomb University’s Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering provides students the opportunity to prepare for an engineering career in an educational environment that also encourages Christian character. The college offers ABET-accredited undergraduate degrees in civil engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and mechanical engineering.
A major focus of Lipscomb’s engineering program is challenging its students and alumni to use their engineering education to help others and for the betterment of society. Since 2004, the engineering college has sponsored 25 volunteer mission teams providing 200 spots for students to carry out ministry support, disaster relief and community development in Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. This past summer, engineering faculty and students completed a 104-foot-long pedestrian bridge in San Esteban, Honduras, to connect two schools separated by a very busy highway that elementary and middle school students must cross daily.
Want to know more about Lipscomb University’s Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering? Visit engineering.lipscomb.edu.
—Photos by Kristi Jones