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Retiring professor Michael Devaney poses with Mizzou Engineering's Edison Electro Dynamo and Lamp, donated to Mizzou Engineering in 1979.

For 40 years Michael Devaney has been imparting his seemingly endless knowledge upon University of Missouri students and staff in the College of Engineering. So deep is his well of knowledge that colleagues have been known to refer to him as a “human encyclopedia.”

Devaney, who has been a strong and active contributor to the Mizzou community, retired on March 1. A mentor, volunteer, professor, researcher, and friend are nominal terms to describe the contributions and legacy Devaney has left in his wake.

A Missouri native, Devaney received his bachelor’s degree from the Missouri School of Mines and Medicine, now the Missouri Institute of Science and Technology, and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Mizzou, doing graduate work on space computing systems for NASA-type vehicles. The transition from student to faculty was direct for Devaney, as his advisor left just as he was about to finish his degree. He was offered a faculty position in the electrical and computer engineering (ECE) department and gladly accepted.

Since then, Devaney has worked in circuit analysis and design, bio-instrumentation, physiology, bioengineering, experimental psychology and acoustical perception. He also served as the first program director of ECE in the early 1980s — making Mizzou the first state institution to offer the undergraduate degree in the discipline.

Flexible in his own career and life, one of the most important concepts Devaney speaks of and models is the importance of allowing oneself to experience change with open arms.
“My career wasn’t choreographed; few ever are. Serendipity plays a role and the ability to accept change makes a difference,” Devaney said.

“Students need to learn how to learn first. If you obtain the tools of learning, you can keep current and be active throughout different engineering areas,” he added.

Devaney encourages students to sample different academic areas and take advantage of opportunities to learn new things to better their effectiveness as productive citizens and engineers.
“The nicest thing about my job is the opportunity to work with truly outstanding faculty and students. I have learned as much from one group as the other,” Devaney said.

In addition to teaching and his administrative positions, Devaney has participated in a diverse array of volunteer positions, including serving as chair of the standing council of student affairs, chair of the faculty council, the global scholars program, campus promotion tenure committee, and chair of the steering committee of the Intercollegiate Athletics.

“These volunteer opportunities have given me a much broader perspective of the institution and how we can make and reflect on what it should be,” Devaney said.

Devaney’s reputation proceeds him, and many people have trusted his judgment and decision-making skills to assist in the improvement of the collegiate environment at Mizzou. In August 2003, Devaney was tapped by then-University of Missouri President Elson Floyd to lead an investigation of the men’s basketball program as several allegations surfaced regarding academic integrity. Devaney led the team in a deposition of players and prepared a report while working with NCAA. Devaney admits his sons were a little envious when he appeared in Sports Illustrated and other news stories.

“Ultimately, the investigation brought some conditions to light and proper action was taken,” Devaney said.

“Your profession should be fun. I have found the practice of engineering to be personally satisfying and if you find that, everything falls into place,” Devaney said.

In remarks at one of Devaney’s three retirement parties, Noah Manring, ECE department chair, said of the professor emeritus, “ All of us want our students to leave our program knowing how to be good engineers — indeed Mike did this. But students not only left Mike’s supervision knowing how to be good engineers, they left wanting to be like Mike as a person.”



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