SED Prof: “the Heart and Soul of Our Extended Family”
Daniel Davis, a retired high school principal| From Obituaries | By Susan Seligson
Daniel Davis’ “limitless energy and enthusiasm, coupled with his deep passion for history and politics, transformed generations of SED students into exceptional teachers,” says former student Brooke Feldman (SED’08). Photo by Scott Delise (SED’13)
Daniel Davis, a School of Education clinical assistant professor of education, was a native New Yorker and an unabashed Yankees fan. An insatiable reader and a world traveler, he loved jazz, movies, and his students, who threw him a surprise party for his 70th birthday and served his favorite drink—orange juice with lots of pulp.
“To say that everyone loved him is not hyperbole,” says Jane Ko (SED’12). “Dan was my advisor—he’s the reason I’m here. People gravitated toward him.”
Davis died on October 19, 2011, of a heart attack while visiting Udaipur, India, with his daughter, Jill. He had just completed a week of teaching in Mumbai.
Davis’ colleague Thomas Cottle, an SED professor of education, who had known Davis since he came to BU in 1999, describes their friendship as “love at first sight. He called me darling and I called him sweetie. His students adored him, and for good reason. They knew he was really smart, they knew he really knew about education, they knew that he had done and done well what he was teaching them to do, and they knew he really cared for them and their well-being, and it was genuine.”
Before joining the BU faculty, Davis worked in secondary education for 30 years at Stoughton High School, as a social studies teacher, department chair, and finally, principal. As coordinator for curriculum and teaching development at SED, he advised more than 70 students, from undergraduates to doctoral students, and taught courses in social studies methods. A specialist in critical thinking and the art of questioning as related to the teaching of history and social science, Davis coauthored the books The United States Since 1945 and A History of the World. He also was codirector of the Harvard Project on East Asian Studies in Education.
SED Dean Hardin Coleman recalls that at last May’s Commencement ceremony, students wore “I love Dan Davis” signs on their caps. “He was that professor who not only challenged you to do your best,” says Coleman, but “he swept you up in his enthusiasm for teaching and let you know that you counted as a person.”
Former student Brooke Feldman says Davis was far more than a professor and an advisor. “He was the heart and soul of our extended family,” says Feldman (SED’08). “It was Dan’s limitless energy and enthusiasm, coupled with his deep passion for history and politics, that transformed generations of SED students into exceptional teachers.”
Davis had traveled to China, Israel, and India to teach in various BU programs. In India, he was working with the BU cohort at the American School of Bombay, where he was teaching the last course in the master’s program before the students concluded their thesis.
Davis graduated from the State University of New York, Oswego, and earned a master’s in teaching at the City University of New York and a PhD at Ohio State University.