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Remembering Dean and Founding Director Larry E. Davis
On March 30, 2021, the University of Pittsburgh and the fields of race research and social work lost a legend. Larry E. Davis came to Pitt in 2002 to serve as the Donald M. Henderson Chair and Dean of the School of Social Work, and to found the Center on Race and Social Problems, the first race research center ever housed in a school of social work. Almost 20 years later, Dean Davis’s legacy has been cemented on both fronts. The University of Pittsburgh School of Social work is now consistently ranked among the top schools in the country, having risen as high as #10 in overall U.S. News rating and #4 in overall research article production under Dean Davis’s leadership. The Center on Race and Social Problems continues to lead the way locally and nationally on race issues, and has positioned the school as a premier institution for social work teaching, learning, and research on the impact of race on people of color and the well-being of all.
Dean Davis was a visionary, with an illuminating understanding of the current realities and future needs for addressing race issues. While race conversations and presentations have grown exponentially in the past year, the CRSP speaker series that Dean Davis founded has provided a lively, popular forum on race topics for nearly two decades. To date, over 100 lectures have been held, and the CRSP speaker series archive is one of the richest on race research in the country thanks to Dean Davis’s foresight. As Dean Davis noted, his goal was to “Short circuit the distance between research and practice.” Indeed, the lunch and lecture format he developed was a huge success, one that fostered interdisciplinary collaborations, innovative ideas, and civic engagement.
To support those collaborations, Dean Davis established a pilot grant program at CRSP that to date has awarded nearly $250,000 to race scholars at the University of Pittsburgh since 2004. These pilot investments have in turn generated nearly $2 million in external funding for scholars working in areas that many traditional funding mechanisms fail to acknowledge or understand. Concurrent with these efforts, Dean Davis also founded the academic journal Race and Social Problems, a rigorous interdisciplinary publication with one of the highest impact factors of any social work-affiliated outlet.
Beyond research, Dean Davis’s impact as an influential teacher and mentor is remarkable. Countless faculty, staff, and students around the world recall mentoring and memorable words of advice from Dean Davis. As founder of the Black Administrators, Researchers, and Scholars network (BARS), his vision for mentoring and advising of Black academics is formalized in perpetuity.
In teaching, he was a pioneer. The Race and Social Problems Course continues to be popular across the university community, and the Cuban Social Issues study abroad program he founded continues to bring a unique international focus on race to the School of Social Work.
As a person, Dean Davis was a joy to know. He was a dedicated husband and father, a fiercely loyal and authentic ally and friend, and a gracious community member and host. Never less than immaculately dressed, Dean Davis had a keen eye for style, a sharp sense of humor, and a memorable smile. His unique combination of street smarts, ready wit, impeccable academic credentials, and interest in current affairs made him a rewarding companion with illuminating insights on many diverse topics. His friendship was as indelible as his leadership.
For these and many other reasons, Larry E. Davis will be sorely missed, but his legacy will continue indefinitely.
for those in Pittsburgh, visitation will be held from 2 pm to 4 pm and 6 pm to 8 pm on Wednesday, April 7 at the Freyvogel Funeral Home.
Funeral arrangements can be found here. The funeral will be livestreamed at 10 am EST on Thursday April 8 at this link.
To leave a remark or memory of Dean Davis, please click here.
Some of Dean Davis’s recent lectures are available in the links below.
Dean Davis's Work
Throughout his long career, Dean Davis made immeasurable contributions to the study of race. Find some of his work below:
“A Conversation on Race,” Larry E. Davis’s last talk at the Center on Race and Social Problems, September 18, 2019.
“Will Race Always Matter?” Larry E. Davis at the Dick Thornberg Forum for Law and Public Policy, American Experience Distinguished Lecture Series, October 5, 2020
- Davis, Larry E. (2016). Why Are They Angry With Us? Lyceum Books.
Davis, Larry E. & Bangs, Ralph (2015). Race and Social Problems. Springer Publishers.
Davis, Larry E. & Engel, Rafael (2011). Measuring Race and Ethnicity. Springer Publishers.
Davis, Larry E. (2004). Black and Single: Finding and Choosing a Partner Who's Right for You, 3rd edition. Chicago: Agate Publishing.
Davis, Larry E., & Proctor, E.K (1989). Race, Gender & Class: Guidelines for Practice with Individuals, Families, and Groups. Prentice-Hall.
Share a Memory
Many people have shared memories of Dean Davis. Read some of them here and share your own by filling out this short form.
Said a sad goodbye yesterday to real one. Part mentor, part uncle, part role model, part friend, Dean Davis you were incredible and poured so much into so many of us. Thanks for believing so strongly in my work, and for showing the way. We're ready to continue on in your legacy. https://t.co/MikBNy91jK— Dr. James P. Huguley (@huguleypitt) April 9, 2021
Larry Davis and James Jackson, my mentors and friends are now both gone. Nevertheless, their mission to use data to advance the well-being of Black people in America lives on in the scores of scholars they trained and supported! We know who we are! Let’s continue their legacy! pic.twitter.com/GG6rJ5QFs9— John M. Wallace, Jr., PhD (@johnmwallacejr) March 31, 2021
I am so saddened by the passing of Dean Larry Davis. CRSP is the sole reason I pursued my PhD at Pitt. I am thankful for the path he pathed for so many, including myself. May his legacy carry-on. I will be in reflection mode for a while. https://t.co/hzKNG2HSOo— Dr. Andrea joseph (@DrAndreaJoseph1) March 30, 2021
Sadden to hear of the transition of Dean Davis. My Dean as a MSW & PhD student. I was drawn to those @PittCRSP talks as a MSW student. Major impact on my clinical SW experiences & now research. What an impactful life, impactful scholar! https://t.co/iXr3Kv0qba— Serwaa S. Omowale,LMSW (@SerwaaOmowale) March 30, 2021
Deeply saddened. I was honored to have worked for Dean Davis as his Research Assistant at @PittCRSP. He provided me with guidance as a man of color. A huge loss for the social work field and @PittSocialwork. Your legacy will continue to inspire us all. Gracias. #socialwork https://t.co/RH6Bd8LQm9— Dr. Daniel Jacobson López (@danjlopez8) March 31, 2021
We are very saddened to hear of the passing of Dean Larry Davis. We are grateful for the time we had working with him on the Center on Race & Social Problems journal Race and Social Problems. We're honored to be a part of his legacy. https://t.co/3I4Qhkd2S0— Springer Psychology (@SpringerPsych) March 31, 2021
Dean Larry Davis was THE voice of conscience for the field of social work about racism in the United States. He has left such a legacy and will be so missed. https://t.co/hP3ftS44VL— Liz Lightfoot (@Liz_Lightfoot) March 31, 2021