UVA Engineering joins the West Potomac (Virginia) High School Wolverine nation to celebrate its outstanding student athletes, coaches and administrators. David L. Green, associate professor of materials science, chemical, and mechanical engineering is among the 2020 inductees in the West Potomac Athletic Hall of Fame.
Green grew up in Gum Springs, an African-American neighborhood in Alexandria, Va. Green recalled that during the summers and extended holidays, he and other kids in his neighborhood played a cadre of sports, 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“Playing sports in my neighborhood was very competitive,” Green said. “I played with better athletes in my neighborhood than I did in college. Several of us became scholar-athletes at colleges and universities.”
Green was a three-sport athlete in football, indoor track & field and spring track & field. He ranked second nationally in the 300m dash. His high school records in the 300m dash and the 4 x 100m relay remain unbroken. Green earned an athletic scholarship to play football at Boston University, where he earned his bachelor’s of science degree; he earned his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Maryland.
Whereas Green excelled on the gridiron, he was destined to become an engineer.
“My mother inspired me,” Green said. “She thought I should be an engineer from the age of three, because I was taking apart toys, vacuum cleaners, radios and televisions, and trying to put them back together.”
Green’s role models include his older brother, Preston, who earned his undergraduate degree in government from UVA in 1989. A Truman Scholar, Preston proceeded to earn his J.D. and Doctorate of Education degrees from Columbia University, and now serves as John and Maria Neag Professor of Urban Education at the University of Connecticut.
Brian Smith, chair of Engineering Systems and Environment at UVA, also grew up in Northern Virginia and competed against both brothers.
“Competition was fierce – we had some great games back in the day,” Smith said. “On the field, David was an incredible athlete – but his intelligence and drive truly set him apart. So many years later, it is a privilege to work with David and witness first-hand how these same characteristics have led to his success as a faculty member.”
Green believes that athletics and academics offer similar life lessons, including the importance of practice and repetition.
“Mastering a sport – and an engineering discipline – takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate, intensive practice with continual feedback on performance,” Green said. “I applied these same work habits to my graduate and post-graduate studies. The skills I developed enabled me to be a tenured professor at UVA.”