John and Ann Tickle

UT Knoxville, ’65

Part of the Tennessee Alumnus’ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.

John and Ann Tickle have supported their alma mater for more than 50 years. The John and Ann Tickle Athletic Development Suite—within the Brenda Lawson Athletic Center—opened in 2006, followed by the John and Ann Tickle Small Animal Hospital in 2008 and the John D. Tickle Engineering Building in 2013.

Most recently, a transformative gift led to naming the Tickle College of Engineering in John Tickle’s honor. It also created the Tickle Graduate Fellows program to fund doctoral students across all of the college’s academic programs and Tickle Professorships to retain top-notch faculty. It further adds a team of professional advisors to help students reach their academic goals.

“I met Ann my senior year at the University of Tennessee,” John Tickle says. “We were married 30 years later, and we’ve been married for nearly 24 years.”

Ann Tickle is a native of Taylorsville, North Carolina. She graduated from UT in 1965 in education and has a master’s from East Tennessee State University.

She launched the first Head Start program in Sullivan County, Tennessee, and taught the first public kindergarten in Bristol, Virginia. In addition to teaching, she hosted the children’s television program Romper Room and was “Miss Ann” on WCYB-TV in Bristol.

John Tickle grew up in Bristol, Tennessee. A member of the UT Board of Trustees, he has served on the UT Athletic Board and the Tickle College of Engineering’s Board of Advisors.

After joining Morrison Molded Fiber Glass as its president in 1972, Tickle bought the company in 1993 and renamed it Strongwell in 1997.

“Ann and I were both first-generation college graduates,” he says. “We were at UT to get an education—to get a foundation to make our lives better. And we have.”