J. Mike Walker, the co-founder of Dril-Quip and namesake of the Cockrell School of Engineering’s J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering, died on Dec. 27 at the age of 75, leaving a legacy of extraordinary generosity and support at The University of Texas at Austin.

Mike Walker, UT Austin TX engineering alumnus

Walker, who received a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from UT in 1968, made a milestone gift to his alma mater in September 2018. In honor of the transformative donation, the university officially renamed the mechanical engineering department the J. Mike Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. The gift, which totaled $20 million, will provide critical resources to help researchers design new technologies and help the Cockrell School develop engineering leaders. Students will also benefit from the gift through greater access to experiential learning and leadership opportunities.

Walker, who made a similar gift to the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, where he received a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D., was a dedicated advocate for the value of higher education. He chose to invest in both schools because of the powerful impact that his academic experience had on his life and career.

“We are saddened by the passing of Mike Walker but we continue to be inspired by everything he did for the Texas Engineering community,” said Sharon L. Wood, dean of the Cockrell School. “We cannot thank him enough for his tremendous generosity, his vision and his unwavering commitment to our students and faculty. His legacy will live on for decades to come.”

Walker, who was born in a log cabin outside Huntington, Texas, was valedictorian of his class at Huntington High School. He began his professional 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. He 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.

Walker was named a Distinguished Engineering Graduate of the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2009.