A. George Davis, Professor Emeritus at Clarkson University died 23 February, 2021 at home in Potsdam, NY after living in and enriching Potsdam for 68 years. Born Alpheus George Davis in Rotterdam, NY 21 December 1926 and named for his grandfather – who preferred to be known as A. G. Davis. Many, even most, knew him as simply “George,” or for those who knew him through his decades at Clarkson, “Dean Davis.” Striking a humorous note, he typically introduced himself to incoming students at Clarkson by saying “I’m A. George Davis, not the species.”
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George enrolled in Union College at the age of 15 in 1942 and temporarily left by enlisting in the U.S. Navy. His Naval career was brief but distinguished, enlisting as E1 in 1944 and separating as Lieutenant (O3) in 1946 – commanding a train carrying demobilizing Sailors from San Francisco to New York City. That train took him through Amarillo, TX and he first saw segregated bathrooms there - a sight that established his support for racial equality and civil rights. His interest in this lasted through the rest of his life.
George returned to Union in 1946, earning his BS in Mathematics in 1947. He earned a MA at Harvard in 1948. He began working at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC in 1948, departing for academia in 1952. He worked for the University of Massachusetts in Amherst from 1952 to 1953, leaving to accept a position of Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Clarkson College of Technology in Potsdam. He worked at Clarkson College and Clarkson University (as it became, partially through his efforts) for the rest of his career, retiring in 1993. In addition to earning degrees from Union College and Harvard University, he also studied at the Illinois Institute of Technology (in Chicago) and Harvard’s Institute for Educational Management. His work with the Defense Department continued under contracts into the 1960s.
George filled many roles throughout his career at Clarkson. He started in 1953 as an Assistant Professor, later rising to Associate Professor and several years as Acting Chair of the Mathematics Department. He was promoted to Assistant to the President and then to Dean of Student Affairs. He transformed that position to Dean of Campus Life, with administrators affecting student personal and academic lives reporting to him. As Clarkson College became Clarkson University, he transferred to be Assistant Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences as a Full Professor. He was instrumental in Clarkson’s recreation programs - helping initiate canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing programs and securing the necessary equipment. Before the Clarkson Canoe House was built, the Clarkson Canoe program spent several years operating out of George’s home on Bay Street. The area around the Canoe House was designated A. George Davis Park in the 1990s. George also was instrumental in establishing the Clarkson School. Early in his career with Clarkson, he volunteered to be timekeeper for Clarkson’s hockey program - filling that role for the Men’s and Women’s teams until 2004. The Olympics invited him to time-keep for the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics and he was timekeeper for several games, including the U.S./Soviet “Miracle on Ice” game.
George touched countless lives throughout his decades in Potsdam. He joined the First Presbyterian Church in 1954 and filled different leadership roles for over 50 years. His leadership roles over that time included Deacon, Elder, Clerk of Session, and Treasurer. His leadership helped create the youth hockey and baseball programs which were part of Potsdam’s culture in the 1960s and 1970s. He also served on the Potsdam Central School Board from 1971 to 1991, most of that time as President of the Board. In the 1990s, the School District honored George by naming the new library at Potsdam Central High School in his honor.
George met Ann Southcott Parnell in late 1947 while attending Harvard and they married at Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1954. They settled in Potsdam, having and raising three children – Richard Edwin (1955), Karen Ann (1957), and Gregg Loren (1959). Throughout their personal and professional lives in Potsdam George and Ann exemplified service to and love of the community and the individuals in it. Their Earthly partnership ended with Ann’s death in 2012, yet their impact lives on through the lives they touched - and will continue to do so into future generations. A bench dedicated in the memory of both will be installed in the A. George Davis Park at Clarkson University in 2021.
A. George Davis was predeceased by: parents Jesse K. and Beatrice Davis; brothers Jesse K. Davis, Jr and Ronald R. Davis; and wife Ann P. Davis (1930-2012). He is survived by: his brother Robert P. Davis; his children Richard E. Davis, Karen A. Davis Riggs, and Gregg L. Davis; his nieces, nephews, and cousins; and by many friends, students, colleagues, and coworkers. His nieces, nephews, and their families state he was more like a supportive grandfather than a more distant uncle/grand uncle.
His memorial service will be held once pandemic concerns diminish, on a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested - George particularly favored non-academic Clarkson Student Life programs, hospice organizations, and animal adoption/shelter organizations.