Hotspot: Deke Isaac in the Zone

Deke Isaac, 2002A musician since elementary school, David Isaac, who goes by Deke, started his college studies as a music major. Although he retired Jan. 31, 2017, as UNT's IT manager for microcomputer maintenance, he will return to his music after 27 years at the university.

He does not own a smartphone and he leaves us with the email address mmstech@unt.edu to reach MMS now. Since he is no longer taking calls, he plans to spend more time with his wife Dana of 33 years, also a musician, and two grown children, Thane and Evan. He also plans to play more with his dog Emma. He may work on fixing up his house, he said, but high on the list are playing and writing music – and taking naps. 

Johnnie Taylor, R&B and soul singer; Deke Isaac was his bass player in the 70sBefore he earned his naps and call-free zone though, Deke performed as a professional jazz musician for almost 15 years after he graduated from high school. He plays the upright and electric basses. As a music major at Emporia State University, Emporia, Ks., he performed with various pop, rock and jazz bands in four states. He also toured with Johnnie Taylor, a famous R&B and soul musician, then moved to Denton as a music major after learning about then-North Texas State University and its jazz studies program.

"Having been in the music business for so long, I learned it's a tough life," Isaac said. To be successful, most musicians have to be entertainers, he said, but he really just wanted to have fun playing his music. So, he decided to concentrate instead on earning a com­puter science degree and was employed as a student techni­cian. He graduated with his bachelor's degree in computer science in 1988 and a master's degree in in computer education and cognitive sys­tems from the College of Education. It is common for musicians to end up with computer degrees, he said "Music is a system, and so are computers." 

Deke Isaac with Alan Rickman"After 25 or so years of co-working with Deke at UNT, at his retirement party in January, I found out that he came here as a music major studying jazz bass in the late 1970s when I was a undergraduate as well," said Philip Baczewski, senior director for University IT. "It's likely we roamed the halls of the UNT School of Music, before it was a College, but with him on the jazz side and all of my interest being in classical composition and orchestra. One of Deke's sons is a professional violinist in the area who crosses paths with many musicians who my wife, a professional violist, and I know. I guess I ought to talk to people more before they retire, but, I'm really not sure how this never came up over the years." 

After graduation, Deke went to work for a company in Flower Mound that made systems for parking management, the early use of hand-held computers for parking enforcement, he said. Then came back to MMS in 1992 as the shop foreman.

His first day of work on staff was March 1992 on his 40th birthday, he said. His boss then was Jim Curry, then-director of classroom support, MMS and UNT faculty 1981-88, the same manager he had as a student assistant. "My first computer was the NTPC, which we built, an XT with the 8088 processor about 4 megahertz, 20 megabyte hard drive, 128k memory, mono-monitor running DOS 5.0. Windows came later," he said.

"I’ve had too many supervisors over the years to mention anyone in particular with the exception of Jim Curry, my first boss. He hired me as a student technician and then rehired me as a full time staff member so, I must have done something right! I am also appreciative of all my student employees over the years as well as sharing space and resources with Classroom Support Services," he said.

If you noticed the photo of Deke with Alan Rickman, yeah, that's Deke with Alan Rickman, his sister-in-law's friend, in New York City in 2015. Hashtag awesome, instagood, wow!

Deke's parting message is one he tells students: be flexible, keep learning, adhere to the KISS principal and keep your resume updated.