Why I give: David Lyth

Contact: Amie Heasley
A portrait of David Lyth wearing a gray polo shirt.

David Lyth, M.S.'79, professor emeritus of engineering

Managing people, money and projects. That’s how Dr. David Lyth, M.S.‘79, professor emeritus of engineering, sums up what he taught for 33 years. His favorite thing about teaching was watching the light bulb go off for his students.

“I was impressed by their practicality, hands-on attitude and work ethic,” he says. “They were personable, good communicators and always able to complete a task—sometimes in a very innovative way.”

Engineers are typically recognized for things like designing and building structures, working to preserve the environment or striving to advance biomedicine. But who’s responsible for the accounting, staffing, organization and marketing?

The answer: engineering managers.

“Engineering management teaches future engineers how to ‘speak business,’” Lyth says of the program that combines math, chemistry, physics, electronics, computers, technical subjects related to manufacturing systems, accounting and pairs it with communication, team building and the importance of human dimension in the workplace.

Together with Dr. Larry Mallak, professor of industrial and entrepreneurial engineering and engineering management, Lyth helped Western’s graduate program become one of only six certified globally by the American Society for Engineering Management.  

Even in his retirement, his enthusiasm for the field is unmistakable. It’s so palpable that he established a scholarship specific to his and his late wife Joyce’s commitment to students majoring in engineering management at Western.


David and Joyce Lyth sit at a table of a restaurant holding cocktails.

The Lyths spent many spring breaks in Kailua Kona, Hawaii, and they developed deep friendships there.

While Lyth’s passion for engineering management runs deep, it pales in comparison to his love for Joyce Caylor. He met his future bride while they were undergraduate students at Michigan Technological University.

“In 1968, there were about 4,500 men and 300 women at Michigan Tech,” he says. “Joyce was talking to my roommate, and I wanted to meet her. So, I just walked up and inserted myself into their conversation.”

After graduating, David married Joyce in 1973. He earned his Master of Science in business from Western in 1979 and then a doctorate from Michigan State University. The happy couple went on to lead successful careers and enjoy a life filled with family, friends and traveling.

“Joyce was a first-generation college student and studied accounting at a time when most women went to college to study either teaching or nursing,” he says. “She made her own way in the world.”

Lyth had worked as a quality engineer in Kalamazoo before changing gears and began teaching in 1978. Eventually, the Lyths found their way back to WMU. 

Diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009, Joyce courageously battled the disease for five years. Before she passed away in 2014, the Lyths set up the Joyce Caylor Lyth Memorial Endowed Scholarship at Michigan Tech, a fund dedicated to female first-generation college students from the Upper Peninsula who study accounting. For Broncos, David also arranged the Dr. David and Joyce Lyth Engineering Management Scholarship endowment fund with a bequest to WMU. When realized, this endowment will continue in perpetuity, supporting ongoing scholarships and professional activities for students as well as faculty research.

“Throughout her career and life, Joyce mentored those around her. She was always looking to help others develop their capabilities and grow professionally,” Lyth says. “My hope is that I can not only help ease the burden of the cost for higher education but also inspire other faculty at WMU to give back.”

In 2022, he accelerated the impact of his endowment by making a donation to begin funding scholarships during his lifetime.

“He wanted the chance to build a rapport with the students who receive his scholarship here at WMU,” says Jennifer Yelovina, senior director of gift planning for the WMU Foundation. “This is a great example of how someone can make a promise to provide future support and see the impact that their bequest will have for generations to come.”

A legacy Lyth believes can pave the way to the future.

“My goal with the bequest is to be an advocate for this important discipline, Western’s program and the undergraduate and graduate students who choose to pursue a degree in engineering management.”