AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin will rename its power plant complex on May 24 for Professor Emeritus Carl J. Eckhardt, designer of commencement maces, father of “Tower victory lighting” and narrator of the Santa Rita oil rig campus display.
“Not many people outside of the engineering community know the contributions Professor Eckhardt made to this campus,” said Dr. Pat Clubb, vice president for employee and campus services. “He was so much more than a professor of mechanical engineering. Generations have benefited from his engineering knowledge, vision and wisdom. The infrastructure of our campus—energy, utilities and the overall physical plant—came about largely from his design.”
A former university student who went on to become a professor and director of the Physical Plant, Eckhardt also was a campus historian. During his time with the institution, his office was stuffed with university memorabilia. He compiled a series of booklets on the university’s history, including one about the institution’s first 20 presidents.
In 1958, Eckhardt reassembled the famed Santa Rita No. 1 oil rig on the Austin campus.The rig was the first to “blow in” on university-owned property in West Texas and yielded more than $300 million in revenues for the Permanent University Fund. In spring 1956, he handcrafted the the maces that are carried at Commencement and Honors Day ceremonies using wood from the original Old Main Building. And in 1939, Eckhardt initiated the tradition of bathing the university Main Building tower in orange lights after a major athletic victory. Eckhardt remained an active supporter of the university throughout his retirement until his death in 1995.
“We’re excited to be honoring Professor Eckhardt today,” said Juan Ontiveros, director of utilities and energy management. “The ceremony will follow the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) award presentation. I think Carl would have loved that.”
Immediately preceding the honorific naming, EPA will present President William Powers Jr. with the 2005 Energy Star CHP Award in recognition of the power plant’s estimated 136,000 tons per year reduction in CO2 emissions. CHP stands for “combined heat and power”—an efficient, clean and reliable approach to generating power and thermal energy from a single fuel source. The university’s power plant is run on a CHP system nationally recognized for its ability to meet increasing campus energy demand while reducing emissions.
The EPA presentation is scheduled for 10 a.m. in room 3.304 of the Power Plant Extension (PPE). The honorific naming ceremony will occur shortly after, outside the building (weather permitting).