Imagine developing a passion for engineering early in life, then overcoming financial constraints to earn a mechanical engineering degree from UT that empowers a successful and rewarding career where you are renown as an expert in your field. This is the journey of alumnus Paul Bunch (BS, ME ’72). Paul, along with his wife, Madeline, now actively join UT on its journey to the Top 25 both monetarily and as engaged volunteers.
“My education has helped me in every aspect of my career,” states Paul as a testimonial to the quality and value of his UT degree. “I have always applied the knowledge I gained in my engineering education and it has provided a foundation for many years of learning and building on that knowledge. As an engineer, you never stop learning and I have been fortunate to continue applying and developing knowledge my entire career.”
In 2010, Paul retired from Cameron International as Director of Worldwide Technical Services. As an expert in the development of high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) equipment for the oil and gas industry, he then founded Bunch Technical Services, Inc., a consulting company that provides HPHT technical support for divisions of Cameron/Schlumberger and focuses on writing HPHT industry specifications for the American Petroleum Institute.
While Paul had long thought about providing support to UT, it was Madeline’s Houston-based philanthropic activities and Paul’s subsequent involvement that further inspired him. As Madeline then became familiar with UT and what it means to Paul, they discovered philanthropic opportunities to drive outcomes on campus that are meaningful to them and the college. As Paul says, “I know first-hand how much of a struggle it can be financially to complete a college degree and if Madeline and I can give that opportunity to students who might not otherwise be able to afford it, that would be of great satisfaction to both of us.”
The Bunches recently established the Paul and Madeline Bunch Fellowship, which provides student-aid for a graduate student pursing a research topic related to fracture mechanics. Dr. Matthew Mench, Head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, Condra Chair of Excellence Professor, and Joint Faculty at ORNL is grateful for this form of support. “The Paul and Madeline Bunch Fellowship empowers me and a faculty member to recruit and retain a graduate student that likely would not attend UT if not for the Bunch Fellowship. Graduate recruiting is a competitive national marketplace and fellowships drive our ability to recruit top-tier students who will assist in advancing UT’s research and thought leadership, which is vital in our journey to become a Top 25 public research institution,” Mench said.
In addition to their fellowship, Paul and Madeline have documented their plan to establish the Paul and Madeline Bunch Endowed Scholarship through their estate. This deferred gift addresses the strategic fundraising priority of endowed undergraduate scholarships. Not only will their generosity provide a wonderful legacy at UT, but it will impact the lives of students as long and there is a UT.
In addition to their financial contributions, Paul and Madeline met a group of UT students in Belize this spring during an Alternative Spring Break service experience led by Judith Mallory, Engineering International Coordinator. Mallory led 15 students on the first joint project between the College of Engineering and the Chancellor’s Honors Program to the town of San Ignacio, Belize. It was there that the team completed building a root cellar for a future small dormitory with earth-filled bags—a project initiated in 2015 by another UT Engineering group—on a farm that will eventually serve as a home for girls who have aged out of the country’s foster system. Paul and Madeline, who were in Belize at the time, visited the worksite. They treated the UT student team to a picnic complete with homemade Belizean tamales, tropical fruit, roast chicken prepared by Paul, cupcakes bearing the Power T, and UT napkins. Paul even grabbed a pitchfork and a shovel on the project—fully embodying the Volunteer spirit!
Born in Chattanooga and raised in Red Bank, Tennessee, Paul grew up tinkering on motorcycles and cars, which came to dominate his childhood interests. His interest in engineering was also stoked by his uncle who worked for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Chattanooga. “He gave me a tour of the operations at a very early age,” Paul recalls fondly. “I was fascinated by the equipment and thought the engineers who designed that equipment must have one of the best jobs there is.”
Paul began his studies at UT Chattanooga before transferring to the Knoxville campus. He worked part-time while attending classes in order to support himself and pay for school. “UT was such a friendly environment with a lot of comradery among fellow students as well as the professors, which instilled a confidence in learning and getting a degree,” Paul recounts. “Even though it seemed difficult balancing work and study at the time, I always look back on it with great appreciation for what I learned and what I experienced while I was there.”
Upon graduation, Paul entered a tough job market, but enthusiastically accepted a position as Design Engineer and Structural Analyst with Pratt and Whitney Aircraft in West Palm Beach, Florida. After four years, he joined Cameron Iron Works in Houston, Texas, which later became Cameron International. “I was the first University of Tennessee graduate to be hired at Cameron,” recalls Paul. “The significance to that was, over time, the company management recognized the quality of engineer graduating from UT and began recruiting on campus. I reached a level of management where I could personally recruit engineers from UT. I think that is a good example to show the quality of engineers that graduate from UT and it validates the level of education provided by the professors and staff.”
Prior to retiring from Cameron International, Paul, as Director of Worldwide Technical Services, managed the departments of Engineering Structural Analysis, Metallurgy, Welding Engineering, CAD Systems and Reliability Engineering. Since founding Bunch Technical Services, Inc., Paul’s focus has been on high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) equipment for the oil and gas industry. “I was part of the Cameron management team to develop the highest pressure drilling and production equipment in existence today,” he states. “I am currently focused on the development of material environmental testing programs for Cameron/Schlumberger in addition to providing HPHT technical support for Cameron/Schlumberger divisions of Surface, OneSubsea and Drilling Engineering departments.
Paul traveled the globe as part of his work related activities. And, enjoyed many years of running marathons when not working. While he has scaled back on both activities, he still enjoys running and spending time at his home in Belize where he is still active in fishing and diving as well as traveling the country. He also enjoys visiting his family in Chattanooga. Paul and Madeline are also true dog lovers, with seven dogs in total.
Paul recognized throughout his career the transformational impact of his UT Engineering education. Now, Paul and Madeline Bunch are serving as torchbearers in philanthropy through their support of the college.
By Aldai Hurt