Wayne Davis came to UT in 1971 as a graduate student in civil and environmental engineering. When he retired more than 45 years later, it was from the top position on campus.
In recognition of his role as an educator, for shaping the college into what it is today, and for serving as interim chancellor, Davis was named the 2020 Nathan W. Dougherty Award winner, the highest honor bestowed by the college.
“As both a graduate and former dean of the college, this award is particularly humbling to me,” said Davis, now chancellor emeritus. “I’m honored to have been selected and to join those who came before me who also played roles in building the college or made significant contributions to engineering. I am grateful to our students, graduates, staff, faculty and administrators, and alumni—all who have been a part of our great engineering college team.”
Davis earned his master’s and doctorate from UT in 1973 and 1975, respectively, having earned his bachelor’s from Pfeiffer College (’69) and master’s from Clemson University (’71), both in physics.
Davis served stints as assistant dean of the Graduate School from 1985–88 and as its associate dean from 1988–91. He was named University Macebearer in 2003, the highest faculty honor bestowed by the university. After serving a year as interim dean, Davis was asked to serve permanently in 2009.
The opening of the Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building and the John D. Tickle Engineering Building, the design and beginning of construction on the new $129-million new Engineering Complex, the at- or near-doubling of undergraduate and graduate enrollment, major increases in research expenditures and the number of endowed faculty positions, and the naming of the college itself occurred under his watch.
“I’m honored to have been selected and to join those who came before me who also played roles in building the college or made significant contributions to engineering. I am grateful to our students, graduates, staff, faculty and administrators, and alumni—all who have been a part of our great engineering college team.”
Davis also boosted the college outside of campus, helping to establish several joint centers and research programs with ORNL, among others.
He has received research awards and recognition from the US Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, the National Science Foundation, and many companies, and is a fellow of both the Air and Waste Management Association and American Society of Engineering Education and a board-certified member of the American Academy of Environmental Engineering and Science, and was recently awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award by the national Tau Beta Pi.
Further afield, Davis was elected secretary of the Global Engineering Deans Council, served on the editorial review board for the Chinese Academy of Engineering’s journal, Engineering, and was an invited speaker at a CAE-sponsored conference in China.