Institute of Technology dean gets lifetime achievement award

More than 1,000 business leaders were on hand for the award ceremony.

by Bryce Haugen

Since joining the University faculty in 1963, Institute of Technology Dean H. Ted Davis has gathered numerous awards and honors. He added another Tuesday night: Minnesota’s Tekne lifetime achievement award.

More than 1,000 Minnesota business leaders gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center for the fifth annual Minnesota Tekne Awards. The event was sponsored by the Minnesota High Tech Association and Minnesota Technology Inc. Besides the lifetime achievement award, companies from around the state earned awards in nine other categories. But Davis, who has served as IT dean for nine years, brought crowd members to their feet.

“It’s hard to imagine anyone who’s influenced more leaders in Minnesota’s technology industry than Ted Davis,” said Kate Rubin, the Minnesota High Tech Association president, as she introduced the dean to the roaring crowd.

During a short acceptance speech, Davis offered thanks to the event organizers and hopes for the future.

He said that he came to Minnesota because of its strong education system. But some people are not working to maintain that quality, he said.

“I remain hopeful that enough people will care enough so my grandchildren will say to me they stayed (in Minnesota) for the same reason I came,” he said.

Peter Lindstrom, Minnesota High Tech Association public affairs manager, said part of his organization’s mission to promote technology includes lobbying the Legislature for increases in University funding.

Several business professionals at the event said Davis is more than worthy of the award.

“His impact on the state economy is huge,” said Pat Dillon, Minnesota Project Inovation executive director.

University alumnus Art Kydd, president of Quest Star Medical Inc., said Davis has been a personal inspiration.

“He’s the best dean the University of Minnesota has ever had – period,” he said.

Distinguished record

Before becoming dean, Davis served as head of the department of chemical engineering and materials science for 15 years. Under his leadership, the department consistently ranked No. 1 in national surveys.

As dean, Davis said his proudest accomplishments include building a new mechanical engineering building, creating the department of biomedical engineering and raising more than $160 million for many IT needs.

This track record of accomplishments is what earned Davis his latest award, Lindstrom said.

“He has just done an outstanding job of being cutting edge and ahead of the curve – which in technology is hard to do,” he said.

A different style

Davis’s colleagues said they like his management style and personality.

“He’s always been a very good guy to work with,” said Bruce Wollenberb, an electrical and computer engineering professor.

He said Davis’ leadership and organizational skills were apparent from their first encounter.

Associate IT dean Karen Wolterstorff said Davis is a friend as well as a boss.

“Ted is very deserving of (the award) – both professionally and personally,” she said.

Davis said he tries to be available to everyone and avoids being overbearing.

“I don’t micromanage,” he said. “I try to find the resources (department heads) need when they come in with good ideas.”

But after nine years as dean, Davis will step down at the end of the semester to focus on his first loves: teaching and research.

“When I took the job, my intention was to stay for five years. I figure a 4-year overrun is enough,” he said.

“I wanted to go back to being a professor because that’s the best job at the University,” he said with a grin. “It’s probably the best job in the world.”