"It was just a physical science building, a humanities building, and an education building," Shealy said.
In the early years, Shealy was busy raising a family and setting down roots in the city.
"I earned tenure in three years, which was reassuring," Shealy said. "My wife and I had our first child in 1976 and another in 1978, so we raised our kids in Birmingham."
But he was nearly persuaded to leave the university for a job with Motorola in Phoenix in the early 1980s. He had taken a 24-month sabbatical and leave to work on optical and electronic packaging research in the Materials Technology Lab. Things were going well for the Shealys in Arizona.
"[Motorola] wanted me to move," Shealy said. "I was close to leaving, and the last summer I went back they wanted me to work on something that I didn't know anything about. I couldn't imagine what kind of company wanted to hire someone who doesn't know anything about what they're doing."
Instead the family moved back to Birmingham.
"I realized I would rather be a professor," said Shealy, who is credited with helping to build instructional and research programs that today are among the best in the Southeast.
Now Shealy is among the nearly 300 employees who will be honored during this year’s Service Awards Program. The luncheon, which recognizes employees with 20 or more years of service, will take place at noon Feb. 21 in The DoubleTree Hotel. Employees being honored for five or more years of service are invited to a drop-in reception later that afternoon.
Shealy has spent the majority of his career conducting research and mentoring graduate students in geometrical optics and applications in laser physics. His first graduate student P. W. Rhodes published an article in Applied Optics in 1980, which focused on ways in which optical components can significantly enhance the performance of lasers in widespread applications in industry, telecommunications, health care, and research.
"The underlying physics that I worked on in my dissertation at the University of Georgia had the capacity to do what he did, but I hadn't applied it to a laser," Shealy said.
The article has become highly cited during the past 10 years. Shealy said the research was ahead of its time because lasers were not as widely used back then.
As a result of this and related work, Shealy received a Meritorious Achievement Award by the Laser Beam Shaping IX Conference at the International Society for Optics and Photonics Symposium in 2008.
Shealy, who directs the UAB IT Research Computing Services unit, was the founding director of the Laser and Photonics Research Center, now called the Center for Optical Sensors and Spectroscopies, and was a topical editor in Geometrical Optics for Applied Optics from 2003-09. He has published 153 journal and proceedings articles, book chapters, and reports and has presented more than 154 invited and contributed papers.
He said he has thought about retirement, but can't imagine himself relaxing on a beach somewhere. When he does retire, probably in the next few years, he wants to continue his research in some capacity.
"Writing another book would be a good project," Shealy said. "There are problems I still want to solve."
The following faculty and staff of the College of Arts and Sciences are being honored for their years of service:
40 Years of ServiceDavid Shealy, Department of Physics
35 Years of ServiceJames Alexander, Department of Art & Art History
Harriet Amos Doss, Department of History
Theodore Benditt, Department of Philosophy
Barbara Williams, The Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD)
30 Years of Service
Gary Gray, Department of Chemistry
Anne Cusic, Department of Biology
25 Years of Service
R. Douglas Watson, Department of Biology
Robert Hyatt, Department of Computer and Information Sciences
Alan Sprague, Department of Computer and Information Sciences
John Sloan, Department of Justice Sciences
Paul Mosteller, Department of Music
Jeffrey Clair, Department of Sociology
Sean-Shong Hwang (retired), Department of Sociology
Amy Evans, Dean's Office
20 Years of Service
Deborah Littleton, Advising
Thane Wibbels, Department of Biology
Eduardo De Castro Neiva, Department of Communications Studies
Jonathan Amsbary, Department of Communications Studies
David Basilico, Department of English
Carlos Orihuela, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Wendy Gunther-Canada, Department of Government
Robert Corley, Department of History
Mary Whall, Department of Philosophy
Christopher Lawson, Department of Physics
Sergey Mirov, Department of Physics
Kimberly Sharkins, Department of Psychology
Christopher Hubbard, Advising
15 Years of Service
Susan Thompson, Grants Office
Cynthia Willingham, The Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD)
Monica Cantwell, The English Language Institute (ELI)
Trygve Tollefsbol, Department of Biology
Venkatram Atigadda, Department of Chemistry
James Larry Powell, Department of Communications Studies
Cassandra Ellis, Department of English
Bruce McComiskey, Department of English
Cynthia Ryan, Department of English
Rita Treutel, Department of English
Jeffrey Reynolds, Department of Music
Kevin Turner, Department of Music
Todd Devore, Department of Physics
Mary Pamela Gore, Department of Psychology
Staci McKay, Department of Psychology
Kelly Allison, Department of Theatre
Ronny Hubbard, Department of Theatre
Jie Chen, CAS IT
10 Years of Service
Luther Hart, The Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD)
Vern Bush, Department of Anthropology, African American Studies Program
Douglas Baulos, Department of Art & Art History
David Graves, Department of Chemistry
Steven Harville, Department of Chemistry
Purushotham Bangalore, Department of Computer and Information Sciences
Anthony Skjellum, Department of Computer and Information Sciences
John Moore, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Angela Lewis, Department of Government
Michele Forman, Department of History
John Grimes, Department of Justice Sciences
Vladimir Vadimovich Fedorov, Department of Physics
Lowell Wenger, Department of Physics
Joydip Barman, Department of Psychology
David Benz, Department of Psychology
Cicily Gray, Department of Social Work
Beverly Foster, Dean's Office
5 Years of Service
Katherine Hughes, CAS IT
Courtney McDonald, Development
Carl Conner, The Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD)
Jesse Kelley, The Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD)
Rebecca Stripling, The Center for Community OutReach Development (CORD)
Kathleen Martell, The English Language Institute (ELI)
Douglas Barrett, Department of Art & Art History
Aubrey Hill, Department of Computer and Information Sciences
Rabi'a Hakima, Department of English
Roberto Mayoral Hernandez, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Erika Rinker, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Shelly McGrath, Department of Justice Sciences
Junfang Li, Department of Mathematics
Scott Phillips, Department of Music
Susan Abdoli, Department of Physics
Xujing Wang, Department of Physics
Kenosha Graves, Department of Psychology
Stephen Todd, Department of Psychology
Gail Wallace, Department of Sociology