Nathan W. Dougherty


Nathan W. Dougherty

Civil Engineer – Outstanding Teacher – Consultant – Administrator

Education – Curriculum Standards – Ethics – Highways – Athletics

Twenty-fifth National Honor Member Nominated by the University of Tennessee Chapter

Nathan Washington Dougherty, Chi Epsilon National Honor Member and Dean Emeritus of the College of Engineering of the University of Tennessee, was born on March 23, 1886, at Hales Mill, Virginia. For the greater part of his life he has resided in the State of Tennessee. His professional experience in other than educational work has been largely in the field of railroads and highways, particularly the latter.

Having received the degree of bachelor of science (BSCE) from the University of Tennessee in 1909, his first professional work was as rodman and then resident engineer on the Wasioto & Black Mountain Railway (later a part of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad). In 1910, he became an instructor in civil engineering at Cornell University and while there he earned his CE degree (1913) and his MCE degree in 1914. He then, in 1914, sought further teaching experience as associate professor of civil engineering at George Washington University at Washington, D.C.

In 1916, he began his long and illustrious forty-year service at the University of Tennessee. He became full professor the following year and, in 1940, Dean of the College of Engineering. He retired as Dean Emeritus in 1956. During his forty years of teaching, he spent sixteen summers keeping his “fingers on the pulse” of the world of engineering practice: two as junior engineer for the Southern Railway; two as special assistant in the U.S., Bureau of Public Roads; and, twelve summers as special engineer in the Tennessee State Highway Department. In these years, also, he was editor of the TENNESSEE ALUMNUS and chairman of the athletic council, University of Tennessee Athletic Association. In the summer of 1918, he served in the Student Army Training Corps at Fort Sheridan, Illinois.

He was a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Tau Beta Pi, and Sigma Xi honor societies. Since his retirement as professor emeritus, he has been consultant to the Arnold Engineering Development Center at Tullahoma, Tennessee. He was a consultant to the Tennessee High Department for many years and has also advised the Tennessee Valley Authority and the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey. Throughout, Dean Dougherty’s principal technical interest has been in highway engineering, and he has made important contributions to this field as engineer, author, and editor. He helped organize the Highway Research Board, and for many years was an influential member. He was also a pioneer in the making of traffic surveys and the analysis of highway capacity.

He has served the cause of professional recognition for engineers in many ways – perhaps most notable in his work for professional registration and licensing. He is widely known as an expert in this field, and is the author of a book on the subject. He helped draft the Tennessee registration law and served on the Tennessee State Board of Architectural and Engineering Examiners from its inception in 1921 to 1956. For thirty years of this period, he was its chairman. For many years, he was active in the National Council of State Boards of Engineering Examiners, which he has also served as chairman.

Dean Dougherty has been president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, director and vice-president of the National Society of Professional Engineers, and has had many other important posts. He is an honorary member of ASCE and the American Society for Engineering Education; and, in 1958, was named Engineer of the Year by the National Society of Professional Engineers. The N. W. Dougherty Award, given annually by the University of Tennessee College of Engineering for outstanding service in the engineering profession, was established in his honor.

Nathan W. Dougherty was elected a Chapter Honor Member of the University of Tennessee chapter on December 3, 1949, and elevated as the twenty-fifth National Honor Member, by the Fraternity, at Knoxville, Tennessee, May 1, 1965. The initiation banquet was held in the ballroom of the University Center. In response to his elevation, Dean Dougherty declared that: “Chi Epsilon …has done me a great honor; you have helped to make the autumn of my long life very pleasant. For more than forty years, this organization has been recognizing merit in the young men of the civil engineering profession. To be made an honorary member of such an organization is enough to warm the heart of the most eminent.

“The members of Chi Epsilon furnish the leadership of a great profession, and in addition to their professional achievements, they receive the satisfaction of high scholarship. He who wears this badge of excellence has the qualities which are the ‘open sesame’ to the good things which count in life. Vitruvius wrote: ‘Those who have a thorough knowledge of both scholarship and skill like men armed at all points, have the sooner attained their object and carried authority with them.’

“The young men who have been initiated today have the beginnings of scholarship, and as they acquire engineering skill, they will achieve their object and carry authority with them. Let us all resolve this day that we will continue to search for knowledge, knowing, with Vitruvius, that it will lead us up the ladder of success. … May Chi Epsilon continue to be the beacon light which shines along the path of those who earn the blessings of work well done.”

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