Remembering J. Mike Walker
There’s nothing that Longhorns and Aggies like more than a little friendly competition.
But J. Mike Walker, an alumnus of both The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University, showed that when an investment is made in both universities, everybody — from students and faculty on each campus to the citizens across Texas and beyond — can win.
Before his death in December 2018, Walker, who received his master’s in mechanical engineering from UT in 1968, united the rival universities with his extraordinary gifts of $20 million to support their departments of mechanical engineering.
“Thanks to these investments, Mike did not just enhance both universities,” says Sharon L. Wood, dean of UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering. “He helped to reshape the future of innovation throughout the state of Texas as well.”
Detail of Mark di Suvero, Clock Knot, 2007
Courtesy of UT Landmarks
“As a dedicated advocate for the value of higher education, Mike chose to give back to this department because of the powerful impact that his academic experiences had on his life and career.”
Sharon L. Wood
Dean, Cockrell School of Engineering
J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering: A National Leader
1,200+ undergraduate and 400+ graduate students
#11 undergraduate mechanical engineering program
#10 graduate mechanical engineering program
Transformative research including the invention and development of the lithium-ion rechargeable battery and the selective laser sintering 3-D printing technique
His gift will ensure that UT maintains its influential place in mechanical engineering innovation. State-of-the-art research and teaching resources will support the work of students and faculty, while excellence funding will help the department recruit and reward the very best students and faculty.
Walker said that his experiences at UT and A&M didn’t only train him as an engineer. “They also taught me how to be a leader — how to collaborate on big ideas, persevere through tough challenges and bounce back from failure,” he said.
“My education shaped who I am today, and I want to make that same opportunity available to as many students as I can.”
His generosity is ensuring that he does. “Mike Walker exemplified the success that a world-class university can provide,” says Rick Neptune, chair of the J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Through his gift, Mike will empower the next generation of mechanical engineering leaders and innovators to follow in his footsteps.”
“We love that Mr. Walker was looking forward to the future of engineering. This is an extraordinary act of philanthropy.”
Junior, Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Advisory Board
“With this gift, we’ll be able to make sure that students have the learning environment they need to grow and become great mechanical engineers.”
Senior, Mechanical Engineering
President, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, UT Austin chapter