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Troy remembers a ‘giant’ of the Trojan Nation

December 6, 2019

The Trojan Nation lost a true legend Thursday evening with the death of Provost Emeritus Fred B. Davis in a Dothan hospital.

Davis climbed the ranks from assistant professor of English to the office of Provost during his 33-plus year tenure at Troy University, touching many lives along the way and inspiring all those who crossed his path.

“Dr. Fred Davis embodied the Trojan spirit and the culture of caring for our students that we have created over the years. Countless TROY graduates owe Fred a great debt, as his brand of ‘tough love’ set them on the path to academic success. His influence reached every corner of the University, from academics to athletics to student service,” said Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. “On a personal note, I will always be grateful to Dr. Davis for his wise counsel and keen insight. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and no giant stood taller than Fred Davis.”

No better recognition of that stature could be than to have former students dedicate scholarships in his honor. Jane Beasley was one of those students, and her Dr. Fred B. Davis Pre-Law Scholarship Endowment provides financial assistance to deserving students from rural areas to support pre-law studies.

It was the second scholarship she’s endowed (the first honors her mother, Marion Horne Beasley), and Beasley’s way of honoring Davis’ commitment to students.

“All that Fred has done for me, he has repeated countless times with many others.  His legacy is as a generous and supportive teacher, advisor and friend — a good man, loved and respected by everyone who knew him,” she said. “And who could ask for more than that?”

“Fred was always very supportive of me, as he was of all of his students, even writing a letter of recommendation for me when I applied to law school.  Many years later, when I wanted to establish a scholarship at Troy in my mother’s name, I called Fred.  He generously agreed to assist me in establishing the scholarship and has been responsible for selecting the scholars every year and determining the amount of the scholarship to be awarded.  He continued to perform these duties with enthusiasm, and I had absolute faith in his judgment in all matters,” Beasley said.

“I eventually came to the conclusion that establishing a scholarship in his name would be the best way to do that, by providing another avenue for him to continue to do what has been most satisfying to him — assisting Troy students in their quest for an education,” she added.

A Professor of English Composition and American Literature, and chair of the English and Foreign Languages Department, he was convinced that excellent writing and critical thinking skills were essential elements of successful professional careers. Through his work with the faculty, the University became recognized as one of the best English departments in the Southeast.

Dr. Fred Davis with Jane Beasley during the Annual Scholarship Brunch in March 2019. Beasley created a scholarship in Davis’ honor for deserving pre-law undergraduates.

“He was the ‘gentle giant’ responsible for many major, student-focused initiatives,” said Donna Clark Schubert, now associate vice chancellor for marketing and communication. Then, she was a young faculty member.

“Dr. Fred Davis ‘raised’ many of us at the University. He would look around, see potential in junior faculty and staff members, and take them under his wing,” she said. “He was the doer who led changes to the general studies program by adding the TROY 1101 program and the international components. He also led our SACS reaffirmation efforts.”

Elaine Bassett was another person Davis raised, and enjoyed a 40-year relationship with Davis as a friend and mentor. Bassett and her husband Marvin both were encouraged and supported by Davis to continue their studies and teach.

“Friend is the only word that describes Fred,” she said. “He epitomizes what a friend is – he knows things about you, cares about you, and didn’t do things for you yet he made a way for you to do things for yourself.”

“He cared about people. That’s what I want other people to know about him. If you were his friend, he was totally loyal to you, and he always gave folks the benefit of the doubt . . . if you were trying your best, he was right there with you. He was loyal to the end,” she said.

He had encouraged Marvin to work on his Ph.D. at Emory – to go to school one quarter and then teach a quarter at Troy; Elaine taught English classes for him while she worked on a master’s degree. 

“My senior year, he hired me to be a tutor. That was great, and I loved it. I graduated in December and he asked me back in the fall to teach a few classes and work on my master’s. I never left. That’s where my heart was and it was all because of Fred,” she said. She taught until she moved to Atlanta with Marvin.

In his later years, he involved Bassett in his healthcare and personal affairs.

“There were five people who came and stayed for long periods of time (while he was hospitalized) who were students of his from over the years. That’s a good man when he has students from 45, 50 and 30 years ago come see about him. That’s a good person,” she said.

“He kept in touch with his students and was still interested in what they were doing with their lives, and they wanted to repay that. That’s a good life,” Bassett added.

Robert Earl Stewart, a finance professor who served 24 years as director of athletics, met Davis when he arrived on campus in 1971. Stewart, at that time, chaired the Faculty Athletic Committee. In 1974, then-President Ralph Adams moved Stewart to the AD role, and appointed Davis, who had been an all-state high school quarterback himself, to take over Stewart’s former role.

“Fred was my right-hand man and attended NCAA conventions with me. He displayed a knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order and Parliamentary Procedure better than anyone at the conventions. We roomed together at the conventions and I learned a lot from Fred – including him waking me at 5:30 a.m. for a cup of coffee,” Stewart said.

Dr. Davis in 1986.

When Stewart’s sports information director resigned, Davis stepped into the gap, volunteering SID duties for the entire football season. The duo formed an impressive loop, eventually being dubbed Dr. Adams’ “front and rear bumpers” at athletic conference meetings.

Davis outlasted Stewart in Athletics, remaining the faculty committee chair for several years following Stewart’s departure as AD. The department eventually hired a new sports information director but none as elegant of a writer as Davis had been.

“Fred was good at everything he did, including being a great University Provost and helping many a student during his tenure at TROY,” Stewart said. “He was a good man.”

Funeral services are slated for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10that Dillard Funeral Home in Troy. Visitation begins at 10 a.m. A private graveside service will follow.