Alumni Spotlight - June 2022+
After over 40 years in his career as a civil engineer, David Wilson still enjoys what he does for a living and is a shining example of an Oregon Tech alumnus who has excelled in his career. David grew up in Elmira, Oregon from 5th grade through high school. His high school, nestled between Eugene and the Oregon coast, only had a 400-student enrollment. During high school, David took a computerized test to gauge which careers would most suit him. In the top ten highest categories for careers was civil engineering. At the time, David didn’t know what that entailed but he knew he enjoyed making things and spending time outdoors. Not impressed with the curriculum at other local public universities, he decided to attend Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls.
David worked hard to get through his course studies at Oregon Tech, tackling between 17-21 credits each term and struggling through some of his classes. David recalls how difficult it was to get through his Fundamentals of Survey class, but once it clicked, everything fell into place. He worked his way through school at an engineering firm which provided him with valuable experience. When he graduated in 1981 though, there was a recession and jobs were scarce in Oregon. After three months of unsuccessful job searches, David packed up his car and set a route for Reno, Sacramento, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles in search of employment. Reno was the first stop and that’s where David landed his first job as a college graduate but after just three months, David was laid off and back on the job hunt. With a shaky economy at the time, this pattern of short-term positions continued until the fourth job, where he finally began to hit his stride in a career as a civil engineer.
With an extensive and diverse resume, David is currently at Atkins North America, where he serves as Project Director for community, commercial and resort projects. Projects he has worked on throughout the years include Las Vegas notables Caesars Palace, Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino, M Resort and many more. He also contributed to Symphony Park in Las Vegas, which was the largest redevelopment project in the city and houses the Smith Center of the Performing Arts; development projects on the Hawaiian Islands; highway and infrastructure projects in Canada; and the Summerlin Master Plan community, honored as the United States 2020 Master Planned Community of the year. This impressive 40+ year career as a civil engineer is why David Wilson is the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award from Oregon Tech.
In addition to his passion for engineering and developing communities, David has had another successful career in the world of off-road racing. David and his brother Jon, also an alumnus of Oregon Tech, began riding dirt bikes at a young age. As he grew older, David took longer to recover from dirt bike races and, as he explains, “With age comes the cage,” and that’s when he began his desert racing adventures. In 2009, David and his son purchased a Class 3000 race buggy. The father-son team got into off-road racing and won the 2010 season in their class. The Wilsons raced in California and Nevada and Wilson Off-Road Racing was a 12-year adventure that only recently came to an end.
Of all his endeavors over the years, David explains that mentoring employees gives him the greatest sense of accomplishment. Helping colleagues, teaching the trade, and developing people to become successful engineers is something that brings him great satisfaction in a career that he enjoys so much. Just as he welcomes trying new things, he likes to keep his employees on their toes by challenging them to think outside the box. His advice for current and future students of Oregon Tech is to remember that “there are no limits.” David explains, “The civil engineering profession is the most diverse field out there and you can do so much with a civil degree. Keep a fresh mind!”
David still rides moto-trials dirt bikes, taking it slow, soaking in the sights and strategizing how to overcome obstacles on the terrain. He also appreciates weekend expeditions in nature with friends in his Toyota FJ Cruiser. He and his wife, Kay, have a daughter, Kanani, who has a master’s degree in I.T. and is working on her third degree, and son, Kai, who is currently studying to be a commercial airline pilot.
Congrats to David on all his accomplishments and for being the 2022 Distinguished Alumnus at Oregon Tech!
~Becky Burkeen, Alumni Relations Manager