Meet Dave Thomas, an engineer and musician whose life since Florida Tech has been anything but typical (and no, he hasn’t been moonlighting as a Santa Claus).
Dave enrolled at Florida Tech in 1976. As a student, he became a member of Lambda Chi Alpha (Beta-Nu #116). He lived in Roberts Hall and was a DJ at WFIT before it became an NPR affiliate. Dave also served as WFIT’s general manager and oversaw its growth from a 100 Watt to a 3000 Watt station.
“My experiences at Florida Tech and especially at WFIT taught me more about working with people than anything else,” says Dave. “Any technical problem can be solved, but people problems can be kind of tricky.”
Dave graduated in 1980 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. That helped him land his first job, which was developing and testing missile components at Hughes Aircraft Company in Arizona.
“A degree from FIT had a lot of prestige, as it still does,” he says. “They put me right in there, working on the design and test of RF-microwave proximity fuses. It was a great job to get right out of college.”
From there, Dave went on to continue his career at then Martin-Marietta, now Lockheed, as a test and systems engineer. He had enjoyed a great education followed by a great career, but then everything changed.
A severe motorcycle accident in 1997 put Dave at death’s door and in the hospital. The brain injuries he sustained led to the loss of some of his cognitive and executive functions. “It was frustrating and very difficult,” he remembers. “And without the support of my wife, Cecelia, and my family, I would simply not be here on earth today. I feel so blessed to be alive each and every day.”
Dave’s accident required a long period of recovery and rehabilitation. “I lost control of many of my thinking processes,” he recalls. “But one thing I never lost was my ability to play music. I focused on that and made it my life. Today I can look back and remember every thing that happened in that period like it was yesterday. My engineering skills have returned completely!”
Dave’s musical life began at 6 years old. He studied the French horn and music theory throughout his childhood and taught himself how to play the piano. He also studied guitar under Michael Sembello, composer of the popular 80s song, “Maniac,” from the “Flashdance” soundtrack album.
Today, Dave—or “Uncle Dave” as he is more widely recognized—is a musician, music teacher, composer and performer living in Melbourne, Fla., hometown of his alma mater. He is a staple of the Brevard blues scene and teaches music to both kids and adults through the West Melbourne Recreation Department.
The music of Dave and his bandmates can be seen and heard around the Space Coast. Blues fans can find and listen to his first original album on the “About the Blues” homepage or via his band’s profile on ReverbNation.com.
“I especially want to invite the Florida Tech community to check out and share a holiday track that a partner and I co-wrote in 1991,” says Uncle Dave. “It’s a funny Christmas novelty meant to remind us how important children are no matter how much money we have in our pockets.”
So without further ado and in the good-spirited nature in which it was written, we present “Credit Card Christmas,” by Uncle Dave Thomas and Daryl Hunt. Happy Holidays.