UTM Building Named for Latimer

The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees approved Friday the naming of the future UT Martin Engineering and Science Building for the Latimer family of Northwest Tennessee. The building donor is William H. Latimer III, of Union City, and if funded by the state, the Latimer Engineering and Science Building will be the first capital outlay funded project for UT Martin since 2006.

State building projects at public colleges and universities require a 25 percent match by the institutions to begin construction. The UT Martin building came closer to reality during the 2016 legislative session, thanks to a change in the university’s required match to fund the project. The match reduction from 25 percent to 10 percent was led by State Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) and was the first of its kind in Tennessee government. The university was given a one-year opportunity to match 10 percent or approximately $6.5 million of the cost to construct the 120,000-square-foot building.

The Latimer gift, the largest single gift since university records have been kept, provides the entire match required by the Tennessee General Assembly. The gift also equals 150 percent of the total funds raised by the university from all sources last year.

Bill believes everyone should use the talents that they have received from God to help make the world a better place in which to live and to help spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Bill has said, “The most important thing in life is to seek and do the will of God.” Bill believes in the Habitat for Humanity saying that it is better to give a hand up than a handout.

Education is one of the most important ways of breaking the cycle of poverty. Bill hopes that this Engineering and Science Building will help not only in raising the standard of living for those who get their engineering degree here, but that more of the graduates will decide to make their homes in West Tennessee.

He is very appreciative of the hard work and dedication that Dr. Joseph A. DiPietro, President of the University of Tennessee, has done and continues to do to help make the University of Tennessee a better educational institution each and every year. Bill also believes that the recent selection of Dr. Keith Carver to be the new Chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Martin is an excellent choice to replace interim Chancellor Dr. Bob Smith, who has done a superb job in the last year and a half.

The gift agreement notes the Latimer family’s deep ties and long history in our region. It traces back to 1852, when three great-grandsons of Revolutionary War Colonel Jonathan Latimer settled in Obion County. In 1930, just three years after the opening of the University of Tennessee Junior College at Martin, Bill’s uncle, Will H., played on its football team, earning the nickname “War Horse” from his teammates. He was the first of three generations of Colonel Latimer’s descendants to attend this institution.

Representing the second generation, the Donor (B.S. in Industrial Engineering, UTK, 1960) attended the University of Tennessee Martin Branch in the summer of 1958.

The third generation included two of the Donor’s sons, William Bonner Latimer and Douglas Neal Latimer, who each earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 1982 and 1984, respectively.

“It’s fitting that such a significant change to the university would carry the name of a family who has represented both an entrepreneurial spirit in the region and careful stewards of the land held in their care,” said Dr. Bob Smith. “Bill’s work is driven by his personal faith, and we are fortunate that he has confidence in UT Martin to carry out his purpose of making life better for others.”

Latimer has a long association with the University of Tennessee and currently serves on the UT President’s Council. He is a former member of the UT Development Council and also individual fundraising advisory boards for UT Knoxville, UT Martin and the UT Institute of Agriculture. He is also former president of the UT Martin Development Committee and has supported scholarships at both UT Martin and UT Chattanooga. He was the principal contributor to the UT Health Science Center College of Dentistry clinic in Union City and is a 1996 graduate of UT Martin’s WestStar Leadership Program.

His current gift to UT Martin will make possible the building that will house the university’s departments of engineering, computer science, chemistry and physics, mathematics and statistics, and an entrepreneurial center. The plans include classrooms and teaching laboratories, as well as dedicated student laboratories and project work spaces. The latter will be created in a way to encourage innovative, cross-disciplinary research and design. “The impact of the project ripples across every academic college of the university and creates opportunities in four other buildings to increase instructional capacity,” Smith said.

University officials see the building as a cornerstone for providing the STEM education needed to develop the region’s workforce. An economic impact study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists International in Moscow, Idaho, and released earlier in 2016 showed the proposed building’s overall economic impact at $56.3 million in added income and the creation of 901 jobs from initial construction through the first 10 years of graduates.

The study also showed that West Tennessee will gain an additional $1.6 million in annual added income from the impact of its graduates and building operations. The city of Martin, Weakley County government, Weakley County Economic Development Board, USDA, Northwest Tennessee Development District, Southwest Tennessee Development District and the university partnered to sponsor the study.

The building is planned for construction on the east side of the university’s academic quadrangle. Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) sponsored the match-reduction bill in the house.