Hazeltine receives Honorary Doctorate from University of Johannesburg

The University of Johannesburg has bestowed an honorary doctorate upon Barrett Hazeltine, professor emeritus in the School of Engineering and former associate dean at Brown.

The honorary doctorate was officially conferred on Friday, May 19. In a news release highlighting the award, the University of Johannesburg wrote it was conferred upon Hazeltine for “his exceptional contributions to the field of engineering. With a prolific career spanning over six decades, he has authored numerous papers on digital logic, technology transfer, and engineering education. Additionally, Hazeltine has published two textbooks focusing on electronic circuit design and small-scale technologies, contributing significantly to the academic community.

“Prof. Hazeltine’s dedication to teaching has been widely recognized. He received the prestigious teaching award from the student body at Brown University for an impressive 13 straight years, until 1985 when the award was named after him. His commitment to nurturing future engineers and entrepreneurs is evident in his specialization in Engineering Management, where he imparts knowledge on entrepreneurial skills and business decision-making.”

In addition to his contributions at Brown, Hazeltine has played a vital role in advancing engineering education in Africa. He has taught at multiple universities in countries such as Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, assisting in the development of engineering degree programs. His teaching and consulting engagements have extended to countries including Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. The University of Johannesburg credits Hazeltine as a strong advocate for the decolonization of engineering curricula in Africa, aligning himself with UJ’s values and imperatives. His efforts have contributed to fostering a more inclusive and diverse academic environment, reflecting the university’s commitment to equitable education.

Hazeltine, who joined the Brown faculty in 1959, is best known for his classes in management and entrepreneurship that have helped to launch countless careers in business and nonprofit leadership. "Engineering 9: Management of Industrial and Nonprofit Organizations," which Hazeltine has taught for more than 40 years, remains one of the most popular courses at the University. 

He received his bachelors and masters degrees in engineering from Princeton and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, and in the late 1960s, began developing the classes that would make him the stuff of legend at Brown and beyond.

The Ford Foundation, concerned that university engineering departments were populated with too many people who had not done any industrial or commercial engineering, started a program called Faculty Residencies in Engineering Practice. As one of the program's first members, Hazeltine worked with the research and development manager for the aerospace firm Raytheon. Then in 1972, Hazeltine received one of Brown's inaugural Wriston Fellowships, which are awarded to young faculty to help spark innovation in teaching. Hazeltine used his award to spend time at the Harvard Business School, acquiring knowledge of business, management and economics.

Shortly thereafter, ENGN9 was born. It started as a Group Independent Study Project (GISP) with just a few students, but after two years was added as a regular course. 

By the 1980s, ENGN9 was one of the most popular classes on campus and it remains so today. The class is built on business case studies, many based on the work of Brown graduates, chronicling the successes, failures, challenges, and solutions of real-world companies. Many who have taken the class have gone on to form their own companies. The beverage company Nantucket Nectars, software firms Clearview and Andera, and The Steel Yard, a Providence artists community, are just a few of the ventures that have roots in Hazeltine's guidance and mentorship. 

Hazeltine remains actively engaged in teaching, research supervision, and academic projects. In 2015, he was honored with the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal of Honor. The medal is the highest honor the Brown University faculty can bestow, having been awarded just 33 times since its establishment in 1919. Among the past honorees are Nobel laureates, University presidents and chancellors, pioneering Brown faculty and esteemed public servants.