In a rare occurrence and an extraordinary act of philanthropy, The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University each received $20 million gifts from J. Mike Walker to support their Departments of Mechanical Engineering.
Walker is an alumnus of both schools and the co-founder of Dril-Quip. In honor of his generous donations, both departments have been officially renamed to the J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering at UT Austin and the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M.
The gifts will provide critical resources for teaching and research within the two departments, funding fellowships and professorships to support and recruit faculty, research seed grants, facility renovations and various programs and organizations for undergraduate students.
“Mike Walker has made an extraordinary investment in the future of engineering, not only for The University of Texas, but for our state and our nation,” said Gregory L. Fenves, president of UT Austin. “Our students and faculty will benefit tremendously. And, because of Mike’s generosity, our mechanical engineering department will continue to expand its reputation as one of the best in the country.”
“I thank Mike Walker on behalf of a most grateful Texas A&M University and Aggies present and future for this amazing gift,” said Michael K. Young, president of Texas A&M University. “This wonderful act on his part will propel an already stellar mechanical engineering program to new heights in our continual pursuit of excellence and mission to develop leaders who serve the world.”
Both departments are already globally recognized as leading centers of engineering excellence — producing high-impact research and demanding the highest educational standards from their students. The combination of research output, qualified graduates and strong alumni support has led to both departments being consistently ranked among the top mechanical engineering programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Walker has strong ties to the two universities, having earned a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from UT Austin. Walker is a dedicated advocate for the value of higher education and chose to invest in both departments because of the powerful impact that his academic experiences have had on his life and career.
“My experiences at these two universities certainly helped me grow as an engineer,” Walker said. “But they also taught me how to be a leader — how to collaborate on big ideas, persevere through tough challenges and bounce back from failure. My education shaped who I am today, and I want to make that same opportunity available to as many students as I can.”
Walker’s gifts will help researchers at both institutions develop new technologies, improve quality of life and launch future engineering leaders. Students will also benefit from greater access to experiential learning and leadership opportunities.
“We are humbled by the generous support of Mike Walker and will be proud to have his name now tied to our Department of Mechanical Engineering,” said M. Katherine Banks, Texas A&M Engineering vice chancellor and dean. “This gift will enable us to build upon our strong tradition of offering superb engineering education to our students and conducting pre-eminent and impactful research to benefit the world.”
Walker, who was born in 1943 in a log cabin outside Huntington, Texas, was valedictorian of his class at Huntington High School. He began his career at Exxon Refining, where he served for four years before taking a leave of absence to acquire a Ph.D. He returned to Exxon as a subsea engineer in the Offshore Department of the Exxon Production Research Company and subsequently worked for McEvoy and Vetco Offshore.
Walker went on to co-found Dril-Quip, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of offshore drilling and production equipment. When he retired from his role as chairman, president and CEO in 2011, Dril-Quip had a stock market value in excess of $4 billion and more than 2,200 employees around the world.
“We cannot thank Mike Walker enough for his generosity and vision,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering. “This investment will have a significant impact on our current and future students and will leave a lasting legacy in our school.”
In addition to his accomplishments as a student, Walker taught engineering mechanics at Texas A&M for three years while pursuing his Ph.D. He has also been inducted as a distinguished alumnus of the two departments that now bear his name.