University of Minnesota Regents professor and former Institute of Technology dean dies
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MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (05/19/2009) —H. Ted Davis, a University of Minnesota Regents professor of chemical engineering and materials science and former dean of the university’s Institute of Technology, died suddenly on May 17. He was 71. For more than 45 years, Davis served the University of Minnesota and its students in various roles, most recently as director of the BioTechnology Institute.
The son of an apple farmer and a textile mill worker, Davis grew up near the small town of Hendersonville in western North Carolina. He completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1959. After earning a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1962, he began his career at the University of Minnesota in 1963 as a faculty member in chemical engineering.
In 1980, Davis became head of the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, and helped to build the university’s chemical engineering program into one of the nation’s best. In the process, he inspired and empowered a generation of young engineers. In 1995, he was named dean of the Institute of Technology, the university’s college of engineering, physical sciences and mathematics. Davis worked tirelessly to secure the necessary resources to support a top-notch research and learning experience for students.
During his tenure as dean, Davis is credited with developing the Digital Technology Center, establishing the department of biomedical engineering, making strategic hiring decisions to increase diversity within the faculty roster and adding degree programs in biomedical engineering, computer engineering, bio-based products engineering, as well as professional master’s programs in software and infrastructure systems engineering. He was also instrumental in raising funds for the renovation and restoration of Walter Library (which now houses both the Digital Technology Center and the Science and Engineering Library), the new Mechanical Engineering Building and the Amundson Hall addition.
Davis also served the broader Minnesota information technology community by helping to secure and maintain the critical National Science Foundation centers for high-tech training including the Institute for Mathematics and Its Applications, the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics, and the Multi-Axial Subassemblage Testing Laboratory.
After serving for nine years as dean of the Institute of Technology --the third longest serving dean in the college’s history --Davis stepped down to return to full-time teaching and research, a position he called “the best job at the University.”
In 2008, Davis became the director of the university’s BioTechnology Institute (BTI)--a joint effort of the University of Minnesota's College of Biological Sciences and the Institute of Technology. In this role he helped to raise the profile of the university’s research in biofuels and renewable energy, especially in the area of biocatalysis
As author or co-author of 500 research papers and three textbooks, Davis’ own research and scholarship focused on several areas related to the flow of fluids, including investigation of the molecular mechanisms by which fluid flows, with applications in industrial coating processes, the flow of pollutants in groundwater, oil recovery and nanotechnology.
In 1988, Davis was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He was named a Regents professor in 1997, the University's highest recognition for faculty excellence, and was inducted into the first class of the Minnesota Science and Technology Hall of Fame in 2008, which honors Minnesotans whose achievements in science and technology have made a lasting impact not only to the state of Minnesota, but worldwide.
“H. Ted Davis was an extraordinary scholar, a revered teacher and a sage leader who served the University of Minnesota and the field of chemical engineering and materials science with remarkable distinction,” said University of Minnesota President Robert H. Bruininks. “In 1997, Ted was chosen by his peers to receive a University of Minnesota Regents Professorship, the finest testament we have to greatness. It was a privilege to have Ted as a colleague and an honor to call him my friend. He will be deeply missed, and I extend my heartfelt sympathy to Ted's family, his students and his colleagues at the university and around the world.”
The visitation is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, May 21 at Washburn-McReavy Funeral Home, Welander Quist Davies Chapel, 2301 Dupont Ave. S., Minneapolis. The funeral is at 11 a.m. Friday, May 22 at St. Mary's Greek Orthodox Church, 3450 Irving Ave. S., Minneapolis.
Memorials are preferred to the American Heart Association or The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.