Conner receives Alumni Professional Achievement Award

connor (Download Image) Harold T. Conner Jr., associate director of Facilities and Infrastructure (F&I) within the Operations and Business (O&B) directorate at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), receiving the Alumni Professional Achievement Award from his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Photo by UTK photographer Steven Bridges/

Harold Conner Jr., associate director of Facilities and Infrastructure (F&I) within the Operations and Business (O&B) Directorate at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), was recently presented with the Alumni Professional Achievement Award  from his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK).

This prestigious award recognizes alumni who have achieved a high level of success in their field, have a record of notable career accomplishments and a history of outstanding contributions to their profession. 

Conner received the award during a special presentation at the Alumni Board of Directors Awards Dinner held at the Knoxville Convention Center in Knoxville, Tennessee on Oct. 24. See the photo gallery.

"It was spectacular," Conner said about the gala event he attended with his wife Joyce Conner; brother Marshall Conner; sister-in-law Vickie Conner; son Michael (Brian) Conner; niece Jennifer Lynn Hendrix and Mark Martinez, principal associate director of O&B at Lawrence Livermore.

"I can think of no one more deserving than Harold to receive this award," Martinez said. "Harold has had a very successful career both here and at other sites. He has made quite a few significant contributions for us as the associate director for F&I. Beyond his technical accomplishments; Harold has always been the consummate gentleman."


The evening program recognized men and women who had achieved accomplishments in four categories: Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna, Alumni Professional Achievement, Alumni Service and Alumni Promise.

The awardees in each category were quite impressive. In addition to Conner, award winners included CEOs, entrepreneurs, a presidential appointee, host of NFL access, the national spokeswoman for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (who is also an accomplished Broadway performer, an eight-time Emmy and Peabody award winner), senior vice president of Pfizer, the brand architect of Pringle and Esquire magazine, along with many others.

Conner is definitely a trailblazer. In 1968, he was UTK's first African American to earn a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, which he followed with a master's in chemical engineering also from UTK in 1978. In 2006, at the age of 60, when most people are planning retirement, Conner decided to continue his education and pursue a doctorate. In 2013, he received a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering and engineering management from the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

Conner’s parents both loved education and provided a great deal of encouragement. His mother, Florence Georgia Bell Conner, who passed away in April 2013, was a second grade teacher; however, it was his father, Reverend Harold T. Conner, Sr., who inspired him to pursue engineering. "My father came from very humble beginnings in a time where segregation was prominent and opportunities for education were limited," he said. Despite facing adversity, his father didn’t let anything get in his way. He pursued a degree, became a high school science teacher and went on to become the first African American administrator of the University of Tennessee Martin (UTM) after it was desegregated in 1969.  He retired from UTM in 1981 and will celebrate his 95th birthday in December. "My father’s guidance as a child helped shaped me to whom I am today," said Conner.

Conner has a long list of career accomplishments. Prior to joining LLNL in 2007 as the associate director of F&I, Conner logged an impressive 40 years of experience with the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration leading non-nuclear, nuclear, low-hazard and high-hazard operations. He built an extensive record of safely and cost-effectively managing and revitalizing facilities and infrastructure at the Savannah River Site, Oak Ridge Y-12, Oak Ridge K-25 and Idaho National Laboratory Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. View Conner’s LinkedIn profile for details of his extensive career.

"I love solving problems and getting things accomplished through people," said Conner. "I believe teamwork and safety are paramount. It's important to involve others in making decisions. That's my ticket to success."

Conner’s home base is still in Knoxville, Tennessee where his wife of 44 years, Joyce, resides. They have two adult sons, Michael (Brian), who lives in South Carolina, and Harold (Tilton) III, who lives in Maryland. Conner credits his family for their commitment and support especially during the past 15 years that he has spent traveling.

"I am honored to have received this recognition and I am grateful to the people along the way that have offered support and counseling, and have helped guide me -- my wife, family and the people I have worked with," Conner said. "I have been blessed with longevity to do the things I love."

After the event, Conner’s son, Brian, posted the following to Facebook. "My dad makes me proud and challenges me. I am very grateful that when I look at him, I see someone who I want to imitate in so many ways," he said. "My company mantra, 'be your best you,' is one that I see in my father. Thank you for the inspiration to be more and do more."

For more insight on Harold Conner, see "A Conversation With…Harold Conner."