History & Traditions

Friends of Alec

Logo for Friends of Alec

No one expected Alec to have many friends. A quiet, unassuming guy in an obscure corner of a local watering hole, Alec seemed destined to view life with arm raised to another's good cheer. But three young engineering college students befriended the lone figure one evening, and changed his destiny, as well as their own.

Like his new companions, Alec's circle of friends widened when he attended college. And soon, like his engineering roommates, he found himself acquainted with the dean. Though oddly dressed and stiffly demeanored, the pot-bellied Dutchman was quickly drawn into the School's colorful history by the visionary Dean T. U. Taylor. Beaming among the other orphaned engineering students, Alec visited Taylor's home at Thanksgiving for dinner. And stalwartly, Alec watched his student friends rest on the couches and benches not only of the dean, but among the offices of engineering faculty as well.

Among the close-knit group, Alec often saw the dean and his faculty loan money to engineering students trying to finish school on exhausted budgets. Eventually Alec found a way to help his engineering friends as well. During World War I Alec contributed a part of himself to UT engineers in the American Expeditionary Force when Taylor shipped to them wood chips stamped CELAFOTRAP ("part of Alec" spelled backwards.)

As Alec reflected Taylor's generosity, so did his students. Alumni soon recruited graduates for work and eventually donated funds to the School.

In 1974 alumni generosity was formalized into Friends of Alec, the School's annual collection of gifts that benefits both faculty and students.

Alec's friends now number in the thousands and gifts to his cause have grown into millions. Despite his fame, Alec's demeanor remains subdued, an unassuming fellow with arm and cup still raised in good cheer. Now 100, Alec has much to salute with that stein: several generations of supporters for excellence in engineering, and his early acquaintances who set the course for generosity and school spirit.

Like most successful engineers, Eckhardt used his profession not only to implement the ideas of others, but to shape and guide policy and structure to benefit.