In Memoriam: Professor Emeritus David D. Davis

Photo of Professor Emeritus Dave Davis

Geography-Anthropology mourns the passing of our friend and colleague Professor Emeritus David D. Davis, Ph.D.   Dave received his Bachelor of Arts degree Cum Laude from the University of New Orleans in 1972, and his Masters and Doctorate from Yale University in 1974 and 1975, respectively. He began his teaching career at Brandeis University in 1975, joining the faculty of Tulane University in 1977. At Tulane, he served variously as the Director of the Center for Archeology, Associate Chairman and Coordinator for Graduate Studies, and as Chairman of the Department of Anthropology from 1982-1987. In 1988, he joined the faculty of University of Southern Maine as Professor of Anthropology, becoming Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. Returning to New Orleans in 2001, he rejoined Tulane University as Associate Dean and Administrative Professor, and then Vice President for Sponsored Research. Following his retirement from Tulane in 2014, he joined R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc. (RCG&A), a cultural resource management group, as a Senior Vice President and served on the Board of Directors of RCG&A from 1999 until his passing.

Most recently, he contributed mightily to projects in the Gulf Coast and Caribbean regions, and more recently to RCG&A’s Hurricane Sandy Recovery and Resiliency Planning efforts in Connecticut during which he served as an author of three monographs entitled: To the Mill and Back, Fairfield’s Ash Creek to Corduroy Road; Fort Wooster Park - Bridging Connecticut’s Native American and Revolutionary Past; and Pine Island - A Coastal Islet’s Storied Past. These three booklets, published in 2018 by the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office, help to publicize the Connecticut State Archaeological Preserve program, which protects significant archaeological sites in Connecticut.

A productive scholar as well as university administrator, Dave was the author of numerous articles spanning a wide range of interests from the Pre-contact archeology of the Gulf Coast South and the West Indies to early Spanish ecosystem management in the Spanish Antilles, human biogeography, and the calibration of West Indian archeological chronologies. In 1990, he and Dr. Goodwin co-authored the seminal article entitled “Island Carib Origins: Evidence and Non-Evidence” in American Antiquity (55:37-48). He also is the author of the volume entitled Perspectives on Gulf Coast Prehistory (1984) published by the University Press of Florida in the Ripley P. Bullen Monograph Series, and of Jolly Beach and the Preceramic Occupation of Antigua, West Indies (2010) published in the Yale University Publications in Anthropology series. 

A mentor to many students at Tulane, the University of Southern Maine and Brandeis, and to the young professional staff of RCG&A, Dave shared his abiding enthusiasm for anthropology and archaeology and his passion for scientific rigor. At USM, we remember him most fondly for leading many a field school in the USVI and frequently strumming a guitar as he led us in song around campfires from Maine to Antigua.  He was teaching two online classes this spring for Geography-Anthropology and had an historical ecology field course in Antigua ready to teach with Nathan Hamilton as soon as covid restrictions were lifted. On the evening before his death, Dave taught his last class for Tulane on the historic anthropology of  New Orleans. He told his wife Sallie that it was one of the best classes he ever shared with students. A teacher, a treasured friend and colleague of profound intellect, he will be sorely missed. We were fortunate to have known him.