Skip to content

Life Lessons: The Final Lecture of Dean Wayne Davis

Wayne T. Davis

The UT chapter of the Mortar Board National Honor Society and the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy recently honored Tickle College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis by having him deliver “The Last Lecture.”

Davis shared personal details about his journey from growing up in small-town North Carolina through coming to UT as a student in 1970 and the path that led him to becoming dean.

He said he knew he wanted to go to college as early as the first grade. His childhood friends’ moms were all teachers, inspiring him to want a college degree, even though no one in his family tree had done so.

Knowing that his family didn’t have the money for him to go to college, he worked a series of jobs that allowed him to save toward his goal, from paperboy to grocery stocker to construction worker.

While his stories were a mix of serious and humorous, some of the major points Davis made to the audience included:

  • Thank your teachers and your mentors
  • Everyone will need someone to champion them at some point
  • Leaders need to ask questions, make hard decisions, navigate when to take risks, and know when to make “gut” decisions
  • Always aim to make the world a better place

The Baker Center began “The Last Lecture” series two year ago, modeling it on a book of the same name by Randy Pausch. Previous honorees include former Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek and longtime chemistry professor George Schweitzer.