Meet David Gilliam
David Gilliam, an instructor at the Tulsa Welding School was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. David has been in Tulsa since 2000, the year he started at teaching at TWS. He has decades of experience to share with his students, and a true passion for the art of welding.
At what age did you go into the welding field David?
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Oh my goodness – it’s close to 40 years. I got a degree in welding and metal technology right out of high school. So I went into welding at the tender age of 19 back in 1976.
Is TWS your first teaching role?
In the early 90s I decided to broaden my horizons, and as part of the practicum side of my bachelor’s degree I did some substitute teaching in a Christian high school. I taught math and sciences. So I suppose that was my first ‘official’ teaching position. I guess that’s where I got the taste for it.
As a boy, what did you want to do when you grew up?
That’s a hard thing to answer, but I thought I might go into veterinary medicine. We lived out in the country; I had horses and enjoyed animals, and I still do love animals. But that’s what I thought as a kid.
Tell me something that most people don’t know about you?
Wow I’ve never even given that a thought… I guess I have a passion for reading, I love to read, especially theological studies.
What’s your favorite music, book and movie.
My favorite book would have to be the Bible. My favorite type of music is contemporary Christian music and my all-time favorite movie is probably The Sound of Music.
If you could choose to have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be?
I would choose to have dinner with the Apostle Peter because his personality, as I read about him, was somewhat like mine sometimes. He gets ahead of himself, he acts before he thinks. He was a colossal failure in what he said he was going to do, but then it came back full circle and he was the leader of the birth of the church in the Book of Acts. I would just like to sit down and visit with him, to hear how he worked himself through all that.
Take a moment to tell us about your family.
My wife Iva and I have been married for 15 years. Between the two of us we have six children, all of whom are now married. We have 11 grandchildren with one on the way. We are a blended family, and continue to be so! We also have two dogs at home.
If you weren’t a teacher and money was no object, what would you do?
If I didn’t have to work and had unlimited resources, I’d go back to school to work on my Doctorate, probably in New Testament Studies with a view to pastoral leadership. I already have a Master’s in Biblical and Theological Studies. I also pastor a church on the side, so I would further my studies and enhance my knowledge so I can pass that on to people in my church.
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to new students who are just starting out?
There are two things. First, if they pursue this as a passion, not just a job, and strive to be the absolute best that they can be, then this industry will serve them well for their life. And second, and this is especially for high school leavers, it’s time to get your head right, step up and take responsibility because you’re entering the adult world and it’s hard, hot work.
But it’s very rewarding, and not just because you’re going to make a paycheck. It’s rewarding because welding in my life is an art form, it’s a craft. It’s something you do with a passion, and when you’re done you can stand back and say “look what I created”. That needs to be your motivation, not the paycheck. Now the paycheck is good, but it has to be secondary to the passion for the things that you work hard to create and perfect.
What’s your favorite part of the industry?
The creativity. Being able to stand back, no matter what you’ve done, and know that you’ve done the very best that you can possibly do. When I was teaching welding, I actually teach the inspection part of it now, I would I tell my students that I don’t care if you’re building a trash dumpster to sit on the street or an elaborate piping system – when you back off and look it at it you want to know that you’ve done the very best that you could do. If you don’t have the passion, then you won’t have the sense of pride of a job well done.
What’s your favorite tool?
I think my favorite, in today’s world, is the plasma cutter. It’s certainly the most versatile. It allows you to cut metals that you couldn’t cut in the past without high dollar saws. Plasma has taken us into a new realm. Basically anything that conducts electricity, plasma will cut. You can also do some fun stuff with it artistically.
If you were to tell one person “Thank You” for helping you become the person you are today, who would it be and what did they do?
That would be my grandmother Cleo on my mom’s side. She was always positive. Of course, I was her first born grandson so that made me her favorite, but she always sparked life into us. She told us whatever you want to do, you can do it. Do it with a passion and be the best that you can be. She was always there to encourage us no matter what.
You get an unexpected afternoon to yourself, what would you do with that time?
Most likely I’d go and sit out on my back porch with my bloodhound Sadie, and read one of my books.
What super power would you like to have?
I don’t keep up with the superheroes, so I’m not sure what powers are out there! But I guess if I could make up my own, I’d like to be able to snap my fingers and take negativity out of everything. There’s too much negativity in the world.
But seriously, on a local level that reflects what we do here too. If kids come in with a positive attitude, everybody knows they’re going to do better. If you have a negative attitude, then you’re going to set yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy.