Wayne T. Davis (’73, ’75)

Category: Awards | Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna

2021 Distinguished Alumnus Award Winner

Davis arrived at UT as a graduate student in 1970 with his wife, Sylvia. He earned his MS in environmental engineering in 1973 and his PhD in civil engineering in 1975. After completing his doctorate, he joined the faculty of the Tickle College of Engineering. He has served in various faculty and administrative positions, including as assistant dean and associate dean of the Graduate School and associate dean for research and technology for the Tickle College of Engineering. He was appointed dean of the college in 2009.

In May 2018, Davis delayed his retirement to serve as UT’s interim chancellor for 14 months. During that time, he guided a campus with more than 28,000 students and a workforce of nearly 12,000, helping the university transition smoothly to more permanent leadership.

But even before becoming interim chancellor, Davis was transforming the Tickle College of Engineering. Under his leadership, a College-Campus-Governor’s challenge was able to raise $8 million of annually recurring money for the Tickle College of Engineering. The college grew tremendously during his tenure, including a near doubling of its student body, doctoral enrollment, and graduation rates; the addition of 42 faculty positions; and the construction of the Min H. Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building and the John D. Tickle Engineering Building, along with planning and early construction of the new $129 million Zeanah Engineering Complex.

Davis has been honored by numerous organizations, including UT, which chose him as the 2003 Macebearer—the highest faculty honor. Additionally, members of the Tickle College of Engineering’s Board of Advisors created the Wayne T. Davis Endowed Dean’s Chair in 2013, held by the current and future deans of the college.

He has also been engaged in research and committee activities with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Energy, the US Department of Transportation, the National Science Foundation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Davis has received national honors from the American Society for Engineering Education and the Air and Waste Management Association among others.

Davis and Sylvia have been married over 50 years and are active community members, serving in numerous church and community roles. They have two children and three grandchildren.