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In Memoriam: Larry Davis

Dr. Davis passed away on March 30, 2021. Below is a remembrance shared by Elizabeth Farmer, dean and professor of social work at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Dean Davis’s life and work had an incredible impact on so many people, and it is a true loss not only to his family, the University of Pittsburgh, and the School of Social Work, but to all of the scholars and community leaders whom he has inspired with his work that was dedicated to challenging racism in our society. He was a mentor to many young academics over the years, and has inspired the work of others throughout his career. 

In addition to his numerous publications and lectures, he has left an enduring legacy with the Center on Race and Social Problems, which was a very personal endeavor for him. He was proud that the Center was the first race center ever to be housed in a school of social work, and brought in race scholars from across the country to share their race-related research. In 2010, the Center hosted the largest conference ever held on race in America.

His final book, Why Are They Angry with Us? Essays on Race, was a very intimate examination of his own experiences with race in America, and he was always willing to share stories from his own life to help teach others. When I arrived at Pitt, he and I discussed this book and its many fascinating chapters – it was truly a window into his perspective and understandings.

You can read more about Dean Davis’s extraordinary life and work on his School of Social Work webpage, you can also watch one of his last lectures, “Will Race Always Matter?,” given at the American Experience Distinguished Lecture Series at the Dick Thornburgh Forum for Law & Public Policy in September 2020.

For a closer look at his tenure as Dean of the School of Social Work, you can read the Summer 2018 issue of Bridges magazine. Visit the Remembrances of Dean Emeritus Larry Davis page to read personal accounts of how he impacted the lives of his colleagues, mentees, students, family and friends.


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