Rex Tillerson, energy mogul and former Secretary of State, gives lecture at Cockrell

Lauren Grobe

Rex Tillerson, former Secretary of State and Exxon-Mobile CEO, emphasized the importance of integrity in business as the inaugural speaker for the Cockrell School of Engineering’s new Distinguished Lecture Series. 

Cockrell hosted Tillerson on Thursday evening at the Engineering and Education Research Center, where he lectured on leadership and ethics in today’s society.

“Absent of integrity, no human can be whole or complete,” Tillerson said. “With integrity, maybe we have a chance.”

Tillerson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at UT, also encouraged current students to be more globally-minded as technological advances continue to change engineering. 

“Every nation has the right to aspire for a better quality of life,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson was specifically chosen to be the first speaker for the series because of the diversity of his accomplishments, said Prasanna Tamminayana, Distinguished Lecture Series co-chair. 

“We really wanted to start this lecture series with … someone who had the acclaim from every stand point that (makes him) a household name,” chemical engineering senior Tamminayana said. 

Tillerson’s lecture mainly focused on his career as CEO of Exxon-Mobile. While she said she understands some may disagree politically with Tillerson, Tamminayana said Tillerson provides important insight as a leader.

“At the end of the day, I think that we can all learn from each other despite our political beliefs.” Tamminayana said.

The lecture series is also designed to demonstrate to engineering students that engineers can be leaders and managers, said Aashima Garg, Student Engineering Council president.

“I really do think that students can learn so much from someone who started in the same seats that they started in,” electrical engineering senior Garg said. 

The SEC worked with Engineering Executive Education, a divison of Cockrell, but the lecture series was primarily organized by students Tamminayana and Jeff Auster. Students organizing the event allowed student interest to be represented, chemical engineering senior Auster said.

“We are trying to represent students and what they were looking for,” Auster said. “We decided this would be a great initiative to bring to campus.”

Auster and Tamminayana said they wanted students to feel inspired and empowered by the lecture.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Shania Safira attended the event, and said the lecture provoked her to think about her future as an engineer.

“I didn’t really know about the versatility that an engineering degree could provide for me,” Safira said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Prasanna Tamminayana's name. Also there was a typographical error in Aashima Garg's quote. The Texan regrets these errors.