In 2001, MABE alumnus Larry Lacey retired from Abbott Laboratories, a leading global health care company, where he was known as the “Legend” by co-workers. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Engineering from Abbott Laboratories due to his knowledge, professionalism, and many accomplishments while at the company.
Born and raised in Kingsport, Tennessee, Lacey decided in 7th grade he wanted to become an engineer; mainly because he liked to build things, but also because his dad, a chemical process operator, worked with engineers at Tennessee Eastman Company.
In 1963, Lacey received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee (UT). While a student in MABE, he was a member of Tau Beta PI and PI Tau Sigma, a co-op student, and received the student machine design award. Lacey described the time he found out he was accepted into the co-op program as “a great moment.” “I realized that having the co-op meant I would be able to get my engineering degree,” Lacey said. Lacey selected to co-op at Tennessee Eastman Company, where he worked in various engineering positions for seven years. While working at Tennessee Eastman Company, he realized that having a job is just the beginning of new learning experiences. “In my initial meeting with my first boss, he told me that my engineering diploma and 25 cents might buy me a cup of coffee. I fully understood what he was telling me. The door had been opened for the learning experience,” said Lacey. Lacey stresses to other engineers to “Learn! Learn! Learn! Learn from experienced engineers. Learn from other engineering fields. Learn from your mistakes and other engineers mistakes.”
Lacey began working at Abbott Laboratories in 1975 and held many positions, including Plant Engineer, Sr. Plant Engineer, Plant Engineering Manager and Engineering Section Manager. These positions had him working at plant locations in North Carolina, Texas, and Illinois. Lacey’s largest accomplishment was having the position of Engineering Manager, where he was responsible for the construction, start-up, and validation of a large volume parental flexible container manufacturing facility, which is the largest IV plant in the world. He was also responsible for staffing a 160 man engineering organization. “I view my engineering career as a great adventure. I would like to do it all over again, but you only get to go around once,” Lacey said.
Lacey is grateful for the education he received at UT and feels it was excellent preparation for him becoming a top engineer. In 2005, he bequeathed a sizeable estate to the MABE department to fund scholarships for students from rural areas. He is now the second top living donor to the department.
“I was given a great education and as a result had a wonderful career. It’s great to be able to give something back,” said Lacey.
Enjoying retirement, Lacey is busy ranching, writing, doing engineering consulting work and is still learning. He recently wrote a pamphlet, So you Want to be an Engineer—A Practical Guide, that he hopes to have published soon.