Macalester Today Fall 2011

John B. Davis Jr.


John B. Davis Jr., a beloved and important member of the Macalester community and its 13th president, died las summer at age 89. Davis was president from 1975 to 1984, assuming the top spot when the college was foundering. Under his leadership, the college climbed out of debt and became financially stable. "John B. Davis is among a small handful of individuals who have made the greatest difference in the life of Macalester College," says President Brian Rosenberg. "He will be sorely missed but never forgotten."

Born in Haverhill, Mass., and armed with a doctorate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, he came to Minnesota in 1967 to be superintendent of Minneapolis schools, and took over at Macalester in 1975 when the college was $2 million in debt.

By the time he left, Macalester had regained its financial health, improved its ability to recruit excellent faculty and students, improved morale among faculty and staff, and increased the number of academic majors. He also charted a course that significantly boosted the academic credentials of incoming students and faculty and improved the college’s reputation both locally and nationwide.

Davis is remembered for his spirit of inclusion and optimism, insightfulness and compassion. He left an enduring and unforgettable legacy on this campus.