Former University of Louisiana at Lafayette Athletic Director David Walker passed away Tuesday night, according to a news release from the university.
A cause of death was not disclosed.
Troy Wingerter, UL's director of football operations, said David Walker was on oxygen and had been struggling with respiratory issues before he died.
"It definitely caught us off guard," Wingerter said Wednesday.
David Walker, a 1976 graduate from the university, worked in an administrative role at UL for more than 30 years. He was director of athletics from 2007 to 2010 after taking over in an interim position in 2005.
He is remembered as a straightforward, humble man who never planned to become athletic director of the university.
"He told it to you like it was, but if he said he would do something for you, he would definitely take care of it," Wingerter said. "He did not mince his words. He did not sugarcoat things. Sometimes, that's tough for coaches and people who work with him, but everyone who knew and worked with him loved him.
"He was a phenomenal athletic director and a phenomenal person."
Darren Walker, who is not related to David Walker but works as UL's assistant athletic director for video operations, said it's important for people to understand how much he did at such a critical time for the university.
David Walker stepped in as interim athletic director after Nelson Schexnayder left in 2005 and eventually took over the position in 2007 until Scott Farmer replaced him in 2011.
"He just filled in that gap there," Darren Walker said. "We needed someone exactly like him to get us through that period of time."
Wingerter said he appreciated the man's frankness and went to him for advice when he was considering moving from a coaching role into an administrative one.
"He said 'I understand why you want to do it, but make sure that's what you want to do because you can't have one foot in and one foot out,'" Wingerter recalled. "And what he meant was you can't be in administration still wanting to be a ball coach. That was some sage advice."
David Walker was a key figure in UL's administration for more than 30 years.
He led the university's auxiliary services, which includes UL's bookstore, transportation, credit union, post office and radio station.
Soon after being named interim athletic director, David Walker helped the university navigate in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita and coordinated the 2005 New Orleans Bowl after it was relocated to Cajun Field.
"He was a trusted adviser and effectively managed several delicate and complicated issues," said UL President Joseph Savoie in a prepared statement. "In each, he focused on the university’s best interests. David was unassuming, but he had a great strategic mind, and he was very effective in his long and loyal service to the university. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Pat, and the entire Walker family."
David Walker was an accountant by trade who had a "really strong pulse on the financial side of things" and made the best use of state funding, according to Wingerter.
He didn't seek out the position as athletic director, according to Wingerter and Darren Walker.
"I think the legacy that he left behind is that he did something so many people do at this university," Darren Walker said. "And that's to take a role that you may not have asked for or even really wanted, but in the true Ragin' Cajun spirit, he said 'This is what I have to do.' And he did it to the best of his ability."
Athletic directors have become as important as head coaches in recent years, but they served a different role 15 years ago, especially at a school like UL.
"On behalf of our entire department, I want to express sincere gratitude for the leadership Mr. Walker provided to Ragin' Cajuns Athletics during his tenure as Director of Athletics," athletic director Bryan Maggard said in a prepared statement. "He was extremely respected by all whom he worked with and will be greatly missed."
Wingerter said that David Walker's signature expression stood out in his mind more than any one memory as he thought back on the man's life and legacy.
"I can just see his face and the smirk he always had," Wingerter said. "Whether he was happy with you or mad at you, he gave you that same smirk. And when he looked at you with that smirk, you never knew which one you were going to get."
Darren Walker said he's thinking back to his annual tradition of going to the athletic director's office over the summer with a list of equipment needs. He said he always expected the meetings to last about 30 minutes, but they never lasted more than 5 minutes.
David Walker approved his list without hesitation each year because he trusted the people who worked for him and didn't need them to justify their needs, Darren Walker said.
"Maybe he didn't really ask to be the athletic director, but he knew just what the school needed," Darren Walker said. "And he said, 'Alright. Let's do this.' Sometimes things don't go how you expect or want them to, but you just have to push through it. That's kind of how life goes."