Remembering Joe Davis
by Scott Smith
Dr. Joe Davis, Associate Dean for Instruction, passed away in July of 2003, after Joe and Sylvia battled his cancer in an inspirational manner for many months. A few days later, students, colleagues, and friends filled Seay Auditorium to pay tribute and celebrate his career and his life. The following is taken from remarks made on that occasion.
Although Joe Davis is now known here and around the nation as a distinguished leader in agricultural education, we should not forget that he first established himself as a productive and creative research economist. From his arrival at UK in 1974 until approximately 1988, he had an outstanding record of achievement in research and graduate education. He was probably best known for a series of journal articles on livestock marketing. However, even at this early date his scholarly record shows broader interests in two topics that were to be important to him and, therefore, to our College throughout his career: first, applications of computer systems and information technology, and second, the analysis of agricultural teaching.
Joe was to become a highly decorated teacher at the College level as well as on the national stage. He received the Gamma Sigma Delta Master Teacher Award, the Alumni Great Teacher Award, and perhaps most notably, the American Agricultural Economics Association Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1982, a truly significant national honor.
He was an educational innovator. From the start of his career, he showed a penchant for new and creative teaching methods. He created one of the nation's first courses in agricultural futures marketing and was one of the first to use computer games as a teaching tool. He later showed the same kind of innovation as Associate Dean.
Joe was a dedicated scholar of education. He studied and analyzed teaching and learning. Throughout his career, even long after he became a full-time administrator, he wrote about teaching in disciplinary refereed journal articles, in teaching publications, and in the popular press. Around 1990, as he was designing and building the UK Teaching and Learning Center, he also became a voracious reader on pedagogy, teaching and learning theory, and on classroom innovations in higher education. He made himself an expert in education.
As early as 1989, Joe's obvious talents and passion for teaching led him to administrative and leadership responsibilities for instructional programs, first as Director of Student Services with John Robertson, then as the first Director of the UK Teaching and Learning Center. In 1994 he became Associate Dean for Instruction in the College, a position he filled with true distinction for the remainder of his time with us.
As the leader of our teaching programs, Joe Davis's career achievements outline the full scope and character of our College's instructional initiatives over the last decade. His record defines what we are today in instruction. A partial list of his significant leadership contributions is included in a sidebar to this feature.
However, the qualities that truly distinguish Joe Davis are inadequately expressed in a list of professional achievements. His place in our history and memory is better defined by his commitment and his character and his passionate support for students and the College family. He insistently reminded faculty and administrators that none of our efforts were really about our teaching, it was all about student learning. He was a dedicated advisor, coach, mentor, and yes, father figure for hundreds and hundreds of people. As a role model, his strength of character was made clear in an inspirational manner over the last two years, but that same strength was apparent every day of his professional career.
We cannot fully capture the depth of Joe Davis's administrative contributions to the University and College in a simple summary of his many achievements, but this list provides some measure of the substance, range, and variety of his accomplishments.
- Created the University's first serious teaching assistant development programs.
- Orchestrated some of the University's earliest efforts at distance learning and computer-assisted instruction.
- Designed and implemented the Teaching and Learning Center.
- Successfully campaigned for adoption of faculty teaching portfolios.
- Began the Student Ambassadors program in the College, which was the prototype for the UK Ambassadors.
- Tremendously expanded student career development services.
- Led the College Curriculum Revitalization project, which instituted our current GEN courses, the multi-disciplinary core, and the capstone requirements.
- While working with John Robertson, oversaw the initiation of the College Scholarship Banquet.
- Co-developed the France exchange program.
- Helped to transform the College Library into the Agricultural Information Center.
- Deftly managed a positive, controlled enrollment increase in the College.
- Further enhanced an already excellent recruitment program and greatly expanded the emphasis on minority recruitment.
- Oversaw the remarkable success of new interdepartmental undergraduate majors in the College, including Agricultural Biotechnology and Natural Resources Conservation and Management.