David Hullender, a longtime UTA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has been named a 2018 Piper Professor by the San Antonio-based Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation.
"I'm honored and humbled to receive this award," said Hullender, who started at The University of Texas at Arlington in 1970. "It's never seemed like a job. I enjoy teaching students and often I learn from them as well."
Hullender almost never ended up at UTA.
"Carl Files, the mechanical engineering chair at the time had come up to MIT," Hullender said of the top-notch university where he had earned his doctorate. "He wanted someone from MIT to teach at UTA and I told him that I'd never set foot on a college campus again." Hullender's first job was at General Dynamics, the Fort Worth manufacturing facility that is now Lockheed Martin. Files continued his efforts to recruit Hullender to teach at UTA.
"He convinced me to teach one night class and I guess it took," Hullender said. "I was already teaching somewhat at General Dynamics. There were engineers there who were not familiar with some of the latest computer technology. I was using information I learned in college and passing that on to engineers I worked with. I thought why not give teaching a try."
The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation awards the Piper Professors, names Piper Scholars for scholarships and dispenses student loans. The award, established in 1958 to recognize outstanding college professors across Texas, is made annually to 15 educators to honor their dedication to teaching and for their outstanding academic achievement. Hullender is the 11th UTA professor to be named a Piper Professor.
Each award includes a certificate of merit, a gold pin and an honorarium of $5,000. An impartial selection committee takes nominees from two- and four-year institutions across the state.
Erian Armanios, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, said Hullender's 2018 Piper Professor naming is an acknowledgment of the transformative power of caring, motivating and inspiring the lives of generations of students for 48 years and counting.
"Instilling self-confidence to be a life-long learner starting in the classroom, is Professor Hullender's mantra as teacher and mentor," Armanios said. "To quote one of his former students: Dr. Hullender's teaching is a life experience both through in depth view of the course material and real engineering problems."
The accolades from former students are many and include one from Gary Greene, president and CEO of Fort Worth's Cugar Machine Co. "I was equipped with the necessary tools to handle a broad range of skills including mechanical, electrical, hydraulic and pneumatic systems and designs," Greene said in a recommendation letter. "You had a positive and logical approach for every problem one might be faced with."
Greene also praised Hullender's positive approach to not only engineering challenges and applying what he learned from the professor. "Utilizing your well-organized straightforward, positive approach, I have used these same basic principles you shared with me to reach out to others with a positive, simplified solution to solve most any problem they're faced with," Greene said in the letter.
Aaron Davenport, another of Hullender's past students, said his former instructor was always approachable and fair. He said one of Hullender's strengths was teaching problem-solving instead of formula memorization.
"Since problem solving was stressed instead of the formula or solution, my understanding and knowledge has stuck," Davenport said in his recommendation letter. "I feel confident that what I learned in Dr. Hullender's class, because of the way he presented the material, will be used throughout my career."
Hullender received the 2014 Most Valuable Faculty award sponsored by the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He also received the 2008 Lockheed Martin Excellence in Teaching Award, the 1983 Outstanding Teacher in the college of Engineering and the 1972 Young Engineer of the Year sponsored by the Fort Worth Chapter of the Texas Society of Professional Engineers.
Hullender earned his doctorate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Oklahoma State University.