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Thursday August 11th

Massey Award recipient Stacy Davis keeps Institute of Marine Science afloat

Stacy Davis, Facilities Manager at UNC’s Institute for Marine Sciences, poses for a photo at IMS on April 14, 2022 in Morehead City, NC (Photo by Jeyhoun Allebaugh/UNC-Chapel Hill).
Buy Photos Stacy Davis, Facilities Manager at UNC’s Institute for Marine Sciences, poses for a photo at IMS on April 14, 2022 in Morehead City, NC (Photo by Jeyhoun Allebaugh/UNC-Chapel Hill).

Stacy Davis, the facilities manager at UNC's Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City, North Carolina, received the 2022 C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award.

The Massey awards honor UNC employees each year for "unusual, meritorious or superior contributions."

Davis received more than 100 nominations for the award, including one from Institute of Marine Sciences Director Rick Luettich. The letters described Stacy’s expertise, can-do attitude and vital service he provides to keep the off-campus research laboratory afloat.

“It's hard to imagine something that goes on here that is related to our operations that he isn't the structure on which we are able to do that work,” Luettich said.

As facilities manager, Davis and his small crew are tasked with overseeing the maintenance of the R/V Capricorn, the institute's 48-foot research vessel, and 15 other small boats and 10 trucks. 

Institute of Marine Sciences professor Joel Fodrie has worked with Davis for around 15 years and wrote one of the many letters describing his service.

“Whether it's storms, or just day-to-day, sort of wear and tear. It's a real juggling act, to keep all the boats and trucks and facilities in order,” Fodrie said.

Luettich said that Davis also helps with the training program for students doing field research. Davis said he is connected to the institute 24/7 and always on call for an engine emergency.

Even on his summer vacation to Nashville, Davis picked up the phone when the HVAC system shut off.

“Our shop guys called him on vacation, told him what the situation was and he talked to him over the phone and we're back up and running a few hours later,” Luettich said.

Davis — a Harkers Island, North Carolina native — started doing mechanic work in his own backyard while working for a power company. 

In 1987, he began working as a mechanic for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, where he worked for nine years. 

Davis joined the Institute of Marine Science in 1996 as a research vessel captain and has served as facilities manager since 2011.

“If they gave PhDs in mechanics work for motors and engines and things that run, I mean, Stacy would have the highest PhD with honors, they can award,” Fodrie said. “Stacy knows more about those complex engines and instruments than I'll ever know about fish.”

Davis said that while growing up, he learned skills from his family and Harkers Island locals including boat operations, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work.

These skills are vital to Davis’ career, but they also enabled his hobbies. 

Davis built his house and a workshop in his backyard complete with a car lift and three garage bays. Inside the workshop is a 26-foot sport fishing boat handmade by Davis and a friend.

“And you can comb your hair in the side of it, sitting there looking at it like it's a mirror, it's so slick,” Davis said.

Growing up, Davis said he spent all his time in the water.

“Only time you weren't in the water was in the dead of winter,” he said. “Our mother, at the end of the day, would have to call all of us kids to get us out of the water from where we were swimming or in a boat.”

Looking out the front window of his parent’s house, Davis said he could see the Cape Lookout Lighthouse and its blinking lights.

“Where I grew up, we didn't realize it, but we lived in paradise," Davis said. "But we just took it for granted because that's where we were raised."

Fodrie said that Davis has “all the trappings of being from sort of a small, tight-knit, more rural part of the world” and that he brings a “large, outgoing personality” that everyone can get along with.

“We're blessed to have him,” Luettich said. "And I think I've told him, when he's ready to retire, I'm probably going to retire at the same time, because it seems hard to think that we’ll replace him at any point.”


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