Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2008-01-29

Samford English professor Dr. J. Roderick Davis has received the school's 2008 George Macon Memorial Award for teaching.

Davis, retired dean of Samford's Howard College of Arts and Sciences, received the award from Provost J. Bradley Creed during the opening convocation of the spring semester Tuesday, Jan. 29.

The annual award recognizes a faculty member for exceptional performance as a teacher, counselor, friend and inspiration to students. The honoree receives a silver tray and a check for $1,000.

Davis, said Dr. Creed, fulfills every aspect of the criteria for the Macon award and "embodies the spirit" of the school.

"Students have been endeared to him by his gentle wit and compassionate heart," said Creed. "He patiently listens to their struggles and problems, and offers sympathetic words and wise counsel."

Student evaluations of his English literature courses are often sprinkled with words like "brilliant," "genius" and "inspirational," said Creed, adding that one student noted that Davis "loves the subject and succeeds in making the class love it as well."

A 1958 Samford graduate, Davis returned to his alma mater in 1990 as arts and sciences dean after two decades of college teaching in New York and New Jersey. He holds graduate degrees from Boston University and Yale Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University.

He retired as dean in 2001, but continues to teach full time and be wholly engaged in campus life.

Davis was named national Omicron Delta Kappa advisor of the year in 2007 for his work with the Samford ODK circle. He was inducted into the leadership honor society as a student member in 1956.

The Marshall County native is known for his passion for social justice and his work for racial reconciliation. He serves on the board of the Selma-to-Montgomery National Historic Trail.

He is an active member of Birmingham's Baptist Church of the Covenant.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.