Robert E. Davis Dies; Past Executive Director of Division of Christian Higher Education

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Robert E. Davis Dies; Past Executive Director of Division of Christian Higher Education

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VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 4/11/12)—Rev. Dr. Robert Evan Davis, 90, former executive director of the Division of Christian Higher Education, American Baptist Board of Educational Ministries, died of complications from pneumonia on Friday, April 6, at his home in Elm Terrace Gardens, Lansdale, Pa.

Davis directed Christian higher education efforts for the American Baptist Board of Educational Ministries (absorbed by American Baptist Home Mission Societies in 2003) from 1962 to 1974—supervising up to 16 professional staff and 14 support staff, relating to 28 autonomous church-related colleges and universities, 10 theological seminaries and campus ministries at 300 public universities. The division provided professional leadership development, professional education, continuing education, guidance, recruitment and educational standards. It also offered consultative services in curriculum planning, long-range planning, institutional management systems and administrative leadership searches to colleges, universities and seminaries.

Before that, Davis held a similar role regionally, serving 10 states as western regional director, Division of Christian Higher Education, 1958-1962. He was instrumental in the merger of Berkeley (Calif.) Baptist Divinity School and California Baptist Theological Seminary, Covina, to create American Baptist Seminary of the West.

After retiring from the Division of Christian Higher Education, he was president of Cushing Junior College, Bryn Mawr, Pa., 1974-1978, and president of the Corporation of Cushing Junior College, 1978-1982. He was a consultant to various social service and religious agencies, 1983-1987: The Northwestern Corp., Erdenheim, Pa.; New Life Youth and Family Services; American Baptist Personnel Services; American Baptist Men; and Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board. He was an educational consultant to various higher education institutions, 1980-1985: Rosemont (Pa.) College; Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine; Ottawa (Kan.) University; Bacone College, Muskogee, Okla.; Keystone Junior College, La Plume, Pa.; and Beaver College, Glenside, Pa.

Ordained in 1945, he was pastor of First Baptist Church, Amherst, Mass., while campus minister to Baptist students at Amherst College and the University of Massachusetts, 1945-1949; chaplain at State University of New York, Fredonia, 1950-1954; campus minister at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 1954-1957; interim pastor at Plymouth Valley Baptist Church, Norristown, Pa., 1985-1986, Pughtown (Pa.) Baptist Church, 1986, and Andorra Baptist Church, 1993; pastor of First Baptist Church of Manayunk, Philadelphia,1987-1992; and chaplain of Elm Terrace Gardens, 1994-2001.

He earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Nebraska in 1958; Master of Arts in Philosophy from Amherst College in 1949; a Bachelor of Divinity in the Philosophy of Religion at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Seminary), Philadelphia, in 1944; and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at the University of Akron, Ohio, in 1942. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Sioux Falls (S.D.) College in 1965.

Over the years, he served on various boards, committees and councils, including those for the Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering; National Council of Churches; Philadelphia Baptist Association; American Civil Liberties Union; Main Line Chapter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Alderson-Broaddus College, Philippi, W.Va.; Florida Memorial College, Miami, and Bishop College, Dallas.

He and his wife of 66 years, Delores (Randolph) Davis, sang with the Christian Artists Singers, 1979-1996. He served as the group’s business coordinator, 1987-1996.

In 2006, the couple provided a generous donation for the creation of The Jeremiah Room, a space in the skilled nursing wing at Elm Terrace Gardens, where families could meet privately with the chaplain.

Son of the late John and Roberta (Morse) Davis, he was born in Akron, Ohio, on July 12, 1921.

In addition to his wife, Davis is survived by a son, R. Evan Davis Jr., and daughter-in-law Irène of Geneva, Switzerland; a daughter, Marcia Jessen of King of Prussia, Pa.; grandsons, Michael Jessen of Boston, Jeremy Davis and Theodore Davis of Geneva; and a niece, Karen Holly Hebb of Andover. Davis was preceded in death by his sister, Mary Lou Holly.

A memorial service will be held at Elm Terrace Gardens in July. Arrangements are by Huff & Lakjer Funeral Home, Lansdale.

Condolences can be sent to Delores Davis, 660 N. Broad St., A-401, Lansdale, PA 19446. Contributions can be sent to Grace Baptist Church of Blue Bell, 437 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 122, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA)—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.