Marvin Dvoracek, CASNR professor and chair, honored by former students
By: Norman Martin
Texas Tech University's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources recently lost one of its pioneering professors and administrators: Marvin Dvoracek. During a career that spanned more than three decades, Dvoracek laid the groundwork for cutting-edge academics, coupled with a passion for promoting an inclusive, family atmosphere within his Department of Agricultural Engineering.
Born on a farm east of West, Texas in 1932, Dvoracek received his bachelor's degree in agronomy (1953) and another bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering (1957), both from Texas A&M University. Prior to joining the Texas Tech faculty as an associate professor in the agricultural engineering department in 1962, he served as an instructor at Texas A&M. In 1977, he was named chair of Tech's Department of Agricultural Engineering, serving in that position until his retirement in 1994. He passed at his home last month (Oct. 13) in Bryan, Texas.
In a touching letter to his former students shortly before his death, Dvoracek wrote that it was great fondness that he looked back and remember their times at Texas Tech. During those years, they were much more than just faculty and students. They were a family, held together in a unique way during an important time in their lives.
“I'm so very thankful for all of you and for the joy of being part of your lives,” he wrote. “Your youth and somewhat crazy antics buoyed my spirit and continually encouraged me of a brighter future. I could never adequately say thank you for all you have done to bless my life.”
Dvoracek noted, “For 32 years, our driving force was to make you feel much more valuable than a matriculation number, and that no matter how long you were with us, you were always part of the team.”
Dvoracek stressed that he wanted to develop a team relationship that included students, parents, spouses and professors. To build those bonds, he wanted to share time with them outside of the classroom, particularly during the university's annual homecoming ceremonies. “Those of you who were brave enough to bring your parents to our activities found out that they fit in with a minimum amount of embarrassment and actually had fun,” he said.
During his time as Texas Tech, the agricultural engineering building became a gathering point for students; not only for classes and study sessions, but a location for daily lunches filled with games of 42 and dominos. “All of these activities, in and out of school, helped to build a close-knit group,” he said. “You helped each other with classes, as well as outside of class.”
Dvoracek noted at the end of his letter to former students, “You have given me encouragement and joy in my work and in my life. Again, I could never adequately say thank you for all you have done to bless my life.”
The feeling of his former students was certainly reciprocated. Yoel Reza Afhami, who received his bachelor's degree in agricultural engineering (1987), said the memory Dvoracek and his engineering classes has always been in his mind and soul.
“Mr. Dvoracek had a passion for teaching agricultural engineering, and was a very knowledgeable and diligent professor,” he said. Dvoracek, Afhami said, was an expert in mechanized agriculture; agricultural engineering including soil and water, topographic surveying, hydraulic and channel design, irrigation, and drainage, which have applications not just in agriculture but also in municipalities.
Afhami noted that Dvoracek cared for his students and went the extra mile to teach. He wanted to make sure that the topics he taught were understood well. In Lubbock, where the topography is mostly flat, he ensured that his topographic surveying lab exercises were conducted in a more varied topography.
“Mr. Dvoracek taught tirelessly, had high standards, and for our own good he expected us to be engaged in learning,” Afhami said.
The agricultural engineering department within Texas Tech's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources was moved to Tech's Civil Engineering Building in 1987 and the building was renamed the Civil & Agricultural Engineering Building. Today, the academic unit is known as the Department of Civil, Environmental, & Construction Engineering.
David Smith, the Bryan,Texas-based founder of HyperCool, a firm that brings liquid cooling to modern datacenters and a Texas Tech agricultural engineering graduate (BS/1984), was a close friend of Dvoracek. Smith aided CASNR program leaders in keeping the line of communication open between Dvoracek and his former students. He has also worked to ensure that a plaque is placed in Tech's civil engineering building recognizing Dvoracek among other department heads.
“He was truly a wonderful man, and will be missed by so many,” Smith said of his professor. “He made a lasting impact on all of us, and changed our lives for the better.”
CONTACT: Tracee Murph, Coordinator of Alumni Relations, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2802 or firstname.lastname@example.org
1124NM21 / Editor's Note: For information on the Marvin J. & Gladys Dvoracek Scholarship Endowment, please click here