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SED Prof Dies in India

Daniel Davis, retired high school principal

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Daniel Davis’ “limitless energy and enthusiasm, coupled with his deep passion for history and politics,” says former student Brooke Feldman, “transformed generations of SED students into exceptional teachers.” 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 Yankee fan. He was an insatiable reader and a world traveler who loved jazz, movies, and his students, who last February threw him a surprise 70th birthday party and served his favorite drink—orange juice with lots of pulp. Davis died on October 19 of a heart attack while visiting Udaipur, India, with his daughter, Jill. He had just completed a week of teaching in Mumbai.

“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’ 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 chairman, 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, teaching the Cold War through film and general methods for grades 5 through 12. 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 served as 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.”

Davis’ close friend and colleague Stephan Ellenwood, curriculum and teaching department chair, says Davis’ death is an enormous blow to the SED community. “We have lost a wonderful man,” he says. “He brought us all many gifts beyond his high integrity, infectious passions, boundless energy, and clear-eyed intelligence.”

Former student Brooke Feldman (SED’08) says Davis was far more than a professor and advisor. “He was the heart and soul of our extended family,” says Feldman. “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.”

A technologically challenged, vastly read lover of books, Davis was known for presenting students and colleagues with volumes appealing to their varied interests. “He once asked me to scan a book to send to the parents of someone who was a student of his 15 years ago,” says Jessica Griffin (SED’11), curriculum and teaching department administrative coordinator. He also loved movies, and dispensed DVDs of his favorites to coworkers; Griffin has his most recent offering on her desk, the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle, about a teacher in an inner-city school. Davis lavished time on his students, who often congregated with him for impromptu debates, such as a recent discussion in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden. “One of my colleagues noted that anytime a student came to talk to him they were never there for less than 20 minutes,” says Ko.

Davis recently 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, earned a master’s in teaching at City University of New York, and a PhD at Ohio State University.

He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Barbara, his son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Lisa Davis, of Foxborough, his daughter, Jill Davis, of New York City, and four grandchildren. His sister, Gwendolyn, also survives him.

A memorial service will be held at Marsh Chapel on Thursday, October 27, at 10:45 a.m., with a reception immediately following. Donations in his memory can be sent to the Dr. Daniel Davis Scholarship Fund, Stoughton High School, 232 Pearl St., Stoughton, MA 02072.

6 Comments
Susan Seligson, Senior Writer for BU Today and Bostonia
Susan Seligson

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.

6 Comments on SED Prof Dies in India

  • Bob Caron on 10.25.2011 at 8:41 am

    A beautiful eulogy and obviously a beautiful man. He’s still inspiring people that he never met.

  • Alex on 10.25.2011 at 8:56 am

    Thank you, Susan, for the wonderful article. I am a senior in SED and he has been my advisor for three years. The SED community has had many opportunities in the past 5 days to express how he has influenced and inspired us, and this article puts into words how much we adored him. This article beautifuly describes the life and achievments of an amazing teacher, mentor, and family man. We will miss, but he has left an amazing legacy.

  • David on 10.25.2011 at 2:02 pm

    How sad. Dr. Davis was my High School History teacher in the 80’s. He is the one who pulled me aside just before graduation and told me how much potential I had. That conversation changed my life.

    I actually had no idea he was at BU. I have not seen him in 20 years.

    May his memory be eternal.

  • Bill on 10.25.2011 at 3:33 pm

    Rest in peace, Dr. Davis.

  • Tim Hayes on 10.27.2011 at 2:38 pm

    thanks, Dan

  • leelehmen on 11.12.2011 at 4:56 am

    Exceptional people leave exceptional legacy. Many students owe to him in knowing about their potential and then making mark in life. I am new to my profession and i wish i could take a piece of advise from him. Alas, he is not here.

    Regards leelehmen
    online education Consultant.

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