James "Wendell" Davis, Ph.D., the first director of SLU's Office of Environmental Safety and professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular biology, passed away on Thursday, Dec. 15 in Augusta, Maine. He was 84.
|Wendell Davis, Ph.D.|
Davis had been a long-time Saint Louis University employee, who taught and conducted research for 40 years as a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. After 30 years of teaching, he launched a second career at SLU. He led the creation of the Office of Environmental Safety, which he directed for nine years until retiring in 1997. Davis was recognized around campus for his trademark red lab coat, which he wore when responding to environmental safety issues.
"Dr. Davis (Wendell as I came to know him after retirement) was a good man. He was an excellent mentor, warm and caring to all of his staff, and very fair," said Mark Haenchen, who was hired by Davis as a radiation safety officer in 1992 and currently is director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.
"He led by example. He trusted his staff to function independently, but was always helpful if you needed him. He stayed in touch after his retirement, including after he and his wife Dottie relocated to Maine. I know I am not alone in being saddened by news of his death. He will be missed."
Haenchen described Davis as a man of integrity who had a strong work ethic and embraced golf in retirement. Dedicated to the future success of the Office of Environmental Safety, Davis orchestrated a phased retirement so he was available to mentor Haenchen in guiding the office, which provided a smooth transition.
"The one thing that stood out to me was he was a very fair person and very proud of his accomplishments," Haenchen said. "He was always engaged and involved. He arrived early and stayed late."
Recruited to Saint Louis University in 1957 by Edward A. Doisy, Ph.D., Davis was part of the academic team that taught nearly every course offered by the biochemistry department to graduate students. Davis also taught the nutrition portion of the medical biochemistry class, and taught biochemistry to undergraduates, which was particularly well-received by pre-medical students, remembered William Sly, M.D., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. Nutrition was his area of research.
"The Ph.D.s who graduated in this department will remember him fondly," Sly said. "He was always cheerful, a great citizen in the department and a great citizen in the university. He was a really likeable person."
Davis earned his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Tulsa and his master's and Ph.D. in biochemistry from Oregon State University. He worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a biochemist for three years before joining the faculty of Saint Louis University.
Davis was a 50-year member of the American Chemical Society and the American Society of Biochemistry. He studied the German language and enjoyed many trips to Germany and Europe, where he made a number of friends.
Davis moved to Augusta, Maine, in 2007 to be close to many of his children and grandchildren. He is survived by his wife Dorothy; children Timothy (Maggie); Glen (Catherine); Peggy Barnes (John); daughter-in-law Chrystie Mort Davis; nine grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son Gary Davis.
A memorial service will be held at a future date at Granite Hill Estates Retirement Community, where he had resided. In lieu of flowers, contributions are requested to the Senior College Scholarship Fund, University of Maine at Augusta Senior College, 46 University Drive, Augusta, Maine, 04330 or Granite Hill Estates Life Enrichment Fund, Granite Hill Estates, 60 Balsam Drive, Hallowell, Maine, 04347.