Former Cherokee Farm leader passes away

Dr. David Millhorn

David Millhorn, University of Tennessee senior vice president emeritus and national laboratory relations advisor, died on Monday in Knoxville. Dr. Millhorn, who joined UT System Administration in 2005 as vice president for research and economic development, was 72.In July, Dr. Millhorn transitioned to his most recent role with the University after having served as UT senior vice president and vice president for research, outreach and economic development since 2016 and president of the UT Research Foundation since January 2014.

Two years after Dr. Millhorn’s service as a member of the UT president’s staff began in 2005, he took on the additional role of UT executive vice president and served in both that capacity and as vice president for research until 2016.

Dr. Millhorn oversaw multiple, unprecedented achievements for the University’s research enterprise. Among those, UT’s contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to manage Oak Ridge National Laboratory—in partnership with Battelle Memorial Institute of Ohio—earned two five-year extensions, in 2010 and 2015, without having to re-compete.

Dr. Millhorn led implementation of the Governor’s Chairs program with joint UT-ORNL appointments for world-class scientists, who now include 17 of the leading researchers in their fields. Dr. Millhorn also led the collaborative UT-ORNL team involved in winning a $65-million NSF grant awarded in 2008 – the single-largest research award to UT or any institution in the state at the time – to build what was then the world’s fastest supercomputer and which signaled the arrival of UT-ORNL as a global leader in supercomputing capability.

Dr. Millhorn spearheaded planning, development and construction of the UT Cherokee Farm Innovation Campus in Knoxville, intended as a mix of university and public-private partnership research and development ventures.

Cherokee Farm is now home to the UT-ORNL Joint Institute for Advanced Materials, a first in the history of the UT-Oak Ridge partnership in the location of a jointly run facility not built on the Oak Ridge reservation. That building opened in 2015 and was followed in 2016 by opening of the first on-site building at Cherokee Farm to house private tenants, now occupied by Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc., Arkis BioSciences, AUBO Robotics USA, and University Health System divisions for Internet Technologies and Heart Lung Vascular Data Research and Management.

“The University of Tennessee and all those served statewide by UT research have benefited immeasurably from the 12 years of David Millhorn’s brilliant career that were spent with his alma mater,” said UT President Joe DiPietro. “His loss is extremely difficult, personally and professionally, for all of us who enjoyed working with him; but there is solace in realizing that his impact on UT truly was transformative, and we are part of an even better University because of his many lasting contributions.

“I also offer my hearfelt condolences to his wife, Sherry, their daughters, and their family as they cope with their loss.”

ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia praised Dr. Millhorn for his contributions that benefited both the Oak Ridge reservation and the partnership with UT.

“David was a strong advocate for the University’s role with ORNL, and his efforts were critical to the Laboratory’s successful modernization and the productive research partnership between the two institutions,” Zacharia said. “His contributions outlive him, and he will be greatly missed.”

Earlier this month, Dr. Millhorn picked up the latest of numerous honors for his work for the University when he was presented the East Tennessee Economic Council’s 2017 “Muddy Boot Award.” The award takes its name from the city of Oak Ridge’s Manhattan Project founders, once known as “muddy booters” who weathered adverse conditions to build the community that played a critical role in bringing an end to World War II.

Also in December, the UT Research Foundation presented Dr. Millhorn its highest honor for technology transfer and commercialization leadership. In October, Oak Ridge National Laboratory honored Dr. Millhorn at the annual UT-Battelle Awards for sustained contributions of leadership, ingenuity, perseverance and service through the UT-Oak Ridge partnership and for his role in innovative industry collaborations, pioneering scientific ventures, establishing new institutes and achieving nationally recognized success for both institutions.

Dr. Millhorn came to UT from the University of Cincinnati as inaugural director of its Genome Research Institute and chairman of its Department of Genome Science. He was a member of the American Physiological Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society for Neuroscience, and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

A Chattanooga native and graduate of Tyner High School, Dr. Millhorn received a bachelor’s degree from UT Chattanooga and a doctoral degree from Ohio State University. He was professor from 1980 to 1994 in the Department of Physiology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 21 at Church Street United Methodist Church in Knoxville. Receiving of friends will follow at the church after the memorial service.