David Delker has seen the Kansas State University Salina Aerospace and Technology Campus change in many ways throughout his career.
Delker attended the campus as a student, studying electronic engineering technology in the early ’70s when it was known as the Kansas Technical Institute — a school formed on an abandoned U.S. Air Force base. Much of the old equipment the Air Force left behind was used to teach students.
Since then, the campus merged with the Kansas State University system, new buildings were added with new equipment, and the campus has undergone several name changes. According to Delker, however, one thing has remained the same since he first stepped foot on campus—the campus’s commitment to students.
“While the building and facilities have been changed and upgraded, one of the underlying things that remains — and is unchanged almost 50 years later — is the support for students on this campus,” Delker said. “I see that everywhere here. I’ve seen the faculty, staff and administration all focus their attention on making this the best experience for students possible. The look and feel for those support tools have changed, but the focus has stayed the same.”
Delker has been named the 2022 College of Technology and Aviation Alumni Fellow — a program sponsored by the K-State Alumni Association, the President’s Office and the Deans’ Council. Every year, an alumnus who has distinguished themselves in their professional careers is selected from every K-State college. Alumni Fellows often go back to campus to meet with students and faculty and share their expertise in the classroom and in informal settings as distinguished guests, mentors and counselors.
“Being named Alumni Fellow for this campus is a huge honor,” Delker said. “After many years working in the dean’s office and as a department head selecting Alumni Fellows, I know what credentials are considered and what wonderful graduates have already been named Alumni Fellows for this campus.”
Delker graduated from Kansas Technical Institute in 1973 with an associate degree and then attended Oklahoma State University where he earned his bachelor’s in technical education and then a master’s degree in electrical engineering. After graduating in 1979, he accepted a job as a faculty member at Kansas Technical Institute.
Delker rose through the faculty ranks, bouncing between Salina and the K-State campus in Manhattan. In 1991, the Kansas College of Technology, formerly the Kansas Technical Institute, merged with Kansas State University to form the K-State Salina campus. Delker moved back to Salina to become the program coordinator of electronic engineering technology.
With that move, Delker developed and enhanced laboratories on campus and brought the bachelor’s program in electronics into existence. A few years later, he became the department head for engineering technology but did not stay in that role for long before being elevated to associate dean of academics for K-State Salina. In this role, he was responsible for certifying graduates, making sure that transfer credits were properly accounted for and worked with university-level committees to do course and curriculum approvals.
Delker said that he enjoyed the role of associate dean because he was able to learn more about the other programs offered at K-State Salina and the inner workings of the academic processes used to operate the university. He also enjoyed watching the faculty work hard to educate students and improve academic program outcomes.
“While on campus, the thing I loved the most was working with people,” Delker said. “I always loved teaching, enjoyed working with students one-on-one or in small groups. But I also enjoyed working with faculty and helping them improve their teaching and showing them opportunities for improvement in their own careers. To me, that’s what it was all about.”
Delker’s career culminated when he was named acting CEO and dean of K-State Salina in 2012 after longtime Dean Dennis Kuhlman retired. Delker calls the late Kuhlman one of the most influential people in his career because of Kuhlman’s leadership and friendship. Continuing Kuhlman’s legacy was a great honor for Delker.
Although Delker has retired and stepped away from higher education, he remains passionate about helping young people achieve their goals and putting them on a path to success in life.
“Some words of wisdom that I have for students are to continue to be a leader in your industry — but don’t stop there,” Delker said. “Be involved in the community. Be a giver of information back to those in your community- particularly to young people – because you have the opportunity to help them discover great career options available to them. You will be a leader in your community, no doubt, with the K-State leadership skills you have developed. Keep on sharing your expertise with others.”
The mission of K-State Salina resonates deeply with Delker and it’s that mission that current K-State Salina administrators credit past leaders with ushering in a wave of growth for the campus.
“K-State Salina has built a foundation of fostering the leaders of tomorrow because of the foresight and hard work of leaders like David,” said Alysia Starkey, K-State Salina CEO and dean. “David brings such an insightful perspective of the innovation happening on this campus that his message of grit and confidence will resonate with students and motivate them to achieve their goals.”