Mr. Rodney O. Davis, Szold Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History at Knox College of Galesburg died on Tuesday, November 5, 2019. He was 87 years old.
He was born July 14, 1932 in Newton, Kansas, the son of Harry W. and M. Antoinette (Dey) Davis. He married Norma G. Glass in Fredonia, Kansas on August 7, 1954.
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Norma G. Davis of Galesburg, three daughters Anne C. (Timothy Leahy) Davis of Port Washington, Wisconsin; Margaret E. (Kristoph Klover) Davis of Oakland, California; and Jane E. Davis (Nicholas Reitter, partner) of Jackson Heights, New York; two grandchildren, Elizabeth (Spencer) Madsen and Peter (Kirsten) Leahy and two great granddaughters.
Rodney was raised and educated in Newton and Wichita, Kansas, graduating from North High School in Wichita in 1950. He continued his education at the Municipal University of Wichita for one year before transferring to the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1954 and a master’s degree in history in 1959. He received his Ph.D in history from the University of Iowa in 1966. Rodney served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 until 1957, being honorably discharged as a First Lieutenant. He served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves until 1969, being honorably discharged as a Captain. In 1963 Rodney moved his family to Galesburg to teach at Knox College, where he was a professor in the history department for 34 years specializing in American history. He retired in 1997. While at Knox, Rodney helped develop a groundbreaking program in American Studies that brought together faculty from disciplines across the college including the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Revered as a teacher by students and faculty alike, he always had a keen academic interest in the places where he lived and their relationship to larger national and world developments. After retiring from teaching, Rodney served with Douglas L. Wilson as Co-Director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox. Rodney and Douglas Wilson collaborated on a series of books regarding Abraham Lincoln published by the University of Illinois Press. Rodney’s passion for history stretched beyond Knox College and into his personal life. He was a member of the Organization of American Historians, the Illinois State Historical Society and the Abraham Lincoln Association. He oversaw the year-long activities surrounding Knox College’s sesquicentennial celebrations in 1987, served as Vice-Chairperson of the Galesburg City Sesquicentennial Commission from 1985 through 1987, and was a Charter Board Member of the Galesburg Landmark Commission.
Cremation will be accorded. Burial will take place in Hope Cemetery. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. Memorials may be made to Knox College in memory of Rodney Davis or to the Illinois State Historical Society. Final arrangements are being handled by Hinchliff-Pearson-West Funeral Directors and Cremation Services Galesburg Chapel.
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