Campus News

James F. Hardymon $3 Million Gift to Provide Renovation, Expansion for Emerging Undergraduate Engineering Programs

James Hardymon

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 3, 2022) The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees approved a $3 million gift to the College of Engineering from alumnus and longtime supporter of the university James F. Hardymon during the Dec. 14 meeting.

The gift will support renovations, and expansion where needed, for laboratory space dedicated to biomedical engineering (BME); laboratories and classroom space for the college’s new Department of Engineering Technology; and laboratory space for the college’s forthcoming aerospace engineering undergraduate program.

“The University of Kentucky was created to advance the Commonwealth, through discovery, economic advancement and workforce development,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “This generous gift helps fuel that mission. It further embeds ingenuity and innovation into the distinctive experience we provide, in our labs, in our classrooms and in cutting-edge programs supporting the fields of the future, such as aerospace engineering. We are deeply grateful for this investment that will help us build a brighter future for Kentucky.” 

“This gift will create over 8,200 square feet of state-of-the-art learning spaces and will promote the professional development of 500+ engineering students every year,” said Rudy Buchheit, the Dr. Rebecca Burchett Liebert Dean of the College of Engineering. “The impact will be significant and immediate and will accelerate the growth of these new programs at a critical time for the college and the university.”

James Franklin Hardymon, born in Maysville, Kentucky, on Veterans Day 1934, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1956 and 1958, respectively. He began his career with the Browning Manufacturing Company in Maysville in 1961, following two tours of duty in the U.S. Army. He then served in various executive positions at Emerson Electric before becoming CEO of Textron Inc., a $10 billion global, multi-industry company with market-leading operations in aircraft, automotive, industrial and finance. He retired in 1999.

“The UK College of Engineering does an outstanding job of educating young people for the task of improving our world,” said Hardymon. “I am pleased to make this gift that directly supports student success in the college’s exciting new undergraduate programs.”

The College of Engineering has launched four new undergraduate majors in the past two years: biomedical engineering, lean systems engineering technology, computer engineering technology and aerospace engineering.

Biomedical Engineering

UK has offered studies in biomedical engineering since the 1950s; however, the program only provided graduate degrees and BME minor until the Fall 2020 semester. While the F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Department of Biomedical Engineering’s administrative offices occupy the fifth floor of the Robotics and Manufacturing Building, additional space is needed to support the rapidly growing program. So far, 180 students have declared their intent to earn a biomedical engineering degree.

F. Joseph Halcomb III, M.D. Chair in Biomedical Engineering Guigen Zhang says Hardymon’s gift will create new laboratories in the Grehan Building, which itself underwent extensive renovations and reopened to support engineering education in 2020.

“We are extremely grateful to Mr. Hardymon for his generous and timely donation. These labs will provide BME students with hands-on and experiential opportunities to stimulate their tinkering interest and hone their just-do-it skills at the interfaces of engineering and medicine. This generous gift will have a long-lasting impact and will enable us to provide unique and quality education to future biomedical engineers in an engineering-medicine integrated environment at the University of Kentucky,” said Zhang.

Engineering Technology

The Department of Engineering Technology, which offers bachelor’s degrees in lean systems engineering technology and computer engineering technology thanks to a partnership with Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC), began its programs earlier this fall. The college’s ninth department was made possible in large part to a $2.25 million gift from Toyota.

Hardymon’s investment will create 4,900 square feet of teaching classrooms and laboratories and an administrative home for the new department.

“This gift allows the Department of Engineering Technology to execute its vision of hands-on engineering experiences and design projects for students,” said department chair Nelson Akafuah. “It will empower students to design and make with a no-limits mindset through an education centered on hands-on and project-based learning.”

Aerospace Engineering

Beginning in the Fall 2022 semester, the Department of Mechanical Engineering will begin offering courses toward a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. The new undergraduate aerospace program will be the first in Kentucky.

Hardymon’s gift will enable the development of a hands-on laboratory course for all aerospace engineering undergraduate students and will provide state-of-the-art facilities for students to develop experiments relevant to air and space systems. The labs will include a large wind tunnel for testing airframe design and control; facilities for developing wind power airfoils; and equipment to test spacecraft hardware resilience to vibrations and vacuum environments.

“These hands-on experiences are critical to preparing our graduates for modern careers in aerospace engineering,” said Michael Renfro, department chair and Tennessee Valley Authority Professor.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.