POCATELLO — Idaho State University officials are remembering a man whose transformational leadership in the 1960s and ’70s continues to benefit the school decades later.
William Eugene “Bud” Davis, who served as ISU’s president for approximately 10 years, died on Sept. 24 at the age of 92.
“We owe much to his leadership and dedication,” current ISU President Kevin Satterlee said in a Tuesday news release. “Fifty years ago, he saw Idaho State’s potential and set us up for future growth and success. President Davis provided a vision that has allowed our university to impact so many students’ lives through transformative education.”
ISU’s Davis Field, which hosts women’s soccer and track and field events, is named in his honor.
ISU officials say Davis took a less traditional path to the presidency. He was a high school English teacher and coach before he became an alumni director and interim football coach at the University of Colorado. He then served as an executive assistant to the president for student affairs at the University of Wyoming.
Davis came to ISU in 1965, just two years after the school gained university status. He was only 36 years old at that time, making him one of the youngest university presidents in the nation, according to the news release.
Still, officials say ISU saw many positive changes during Davis’s tenure, including a 75 percent increase in enrollment. The number of faculty members also jumped from 172 to 228 during his first two years there.
“In 1966, Idaho State was also officially designated as ‘the state center for pre-medical, life sciences, and medically-related education by the State Board,’” according to the news release. “Today, Idaho State has not only continued to be a statewide leader in health sciences, but is known nationally for creating a skilled, well-rounded medical workforce.”
Davis focused his presidential efforts on growing programs and expanding academics, ISU officials said, adding that he saw the beginning of a Master of Business Administration program, engineering programs and a six-year program in counseling and school administration.
In addition, Davis oversaw the completion or start of more than $25 million in enhancement and construction projects that eventually doubled the building square footage on campus, officials said.
“Those projects included the Business Administration Building, Fine Arts Building, Hypostyle, Garrison Hall, Turner Hall, Pulling Courts, Schubert Heights, two expansions to the Student Union Building and, of course, Holt Arena,” according to the news release. “Davis also dedicated the pillars on the top of Red Hill.”
Davis took temporary leave from his position in 1972 to run for the U.S. Senate, ISU officials said. While he won the Democratic nomination, he ultimately lost the race.
“Davis’s humor and resilience were powerful assets during his administration. When confronted with the sit-ins and protests common on college campuses in the 1960s, he not only kept order, but many students who demonstrated against him in his office later worked on his campaign for the U.S. Senate, a race he narrowly lost to James McClure,” according to the news release.
Davis ended up leaving ISU in 1975 to serve as the president of the University of New Mexico. He was later named chancellor of the Oregon State System of Higher Education (1982-1988) and then chancellor of Louisiana State University from 1989 to 1997.
In addition to his educational career, Davis served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was a platoon leader in Korea and Japan from 1952 to 1954, according to the news release. He was also a prolific writer, producing nearly 200 published manuscripts, short stories, magazine articles, scholarly articles and biographies and nine books.
“Davis had a wonderful sense of humor and often told and laughed at his own experiences with deep humility,” according to the news release. “His humor, his commitment to service to others, and his joy and adventures as a father are represented beautifully in his collection of short stories published in his book Nobody Calls Me Doctor.”
ISU officials say a memorial service honoring both Davis and his wife, Pollyanne Peterson Davis, who died in December, is set to take place on Friday at the Central United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The couple had five children, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, according to their obituaries.