Wayne Davis came to UT in 1971 as a graduate student in civil and environmental engineering and stayed for more than 45 years before retiring from the top position on campus.
In recognition of his role as an educator, for shaping the Tickle College of Engineering into what it is today, and for serving as interim chancellor for a year prior to his retirement, Davis has been 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 CEE in 1973 and 1975, respectively, having earned his bachelor’s from Pfeiffer College (’69) and master’s from Clemson University (’71), both in physics.
Prior to becoming dean, Davis served stints as assistant dean of the Graduate School from 1985 until 1988 and as its associate dean from 1988 until 1991. He was named University Macebearer in 2003, the highest faculty honor bestowed by the university.
He was serving as the college’s associate dean for research and technology in 2008 when he filled in the dean’s position on an interim term for a year before he was asked to serve permanently.
Under his watch, the college saw tremendous growth, including 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 endowed faculty positions, and the naming of the college itself.
Davis also boosted the college outside of campus, playing a key role in helping or establishing several joint centers and research programs with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, among others.
—Wayne T. Davis
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.
Dougherty, the award’s namesake, served as dean of the college from 1940 to 1956, was a captain of UT’s football and basketball teams as a student athlete in the early 1900s, hired Robert Neyland as UT’s football coach, and served as acting SEC Commissioner in 1947. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1967.
Recognizing Dougherty’s success in engineering and education, the award singles out those who have “brought honor and distinction to the college through their achievements or who have made significant contributions to the engineering profession in Tennessee through their professional activities” and has been given annually since 1957.