Alumni and friends gathered to honor former University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr. on Friday. The 200 block of Main Street was buzzing with music and fellowship as the celebration coincided with a downtown block party.
“It’s an honor and I deeply appreciate it,” said Davis. “The major value of our lives is that we’ve made a difference, and that’s what I always tried to do.”
The city proclaimed Friday, Oct. 13, Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr. Day in honor of his countless work and efforts in his role as chancellor for 20 years. Davis started working at the university in 1961 as an instructor in the math and physics department before working his way up to become a professor. As a native of Pine Bluff, he graduated from AM&N College, now UAPB, in 1958.
“After, I went up through the ranks, I became chairman of the department of mathematics and physics for two years,” Davis said. “I was the dean of arts and sciences and dean of science and technology for a period of 15 years and then I became the chancellor.”
Davis’ father was also the chancellor of UAPB, starting his tenure in 1942 and ending in 1973. He was the first chancellor of UAPB as it transitioned from AM&N College, according to Davis. Davis says it was never his intention to become the chancellor. However, he’s glad he was able to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“It was always something I was working against,” Davis said as he chuckled. “When I was growing up as a little boy on the campus people said, ‘you’re going to be the president one day,’ because my dad was the president, and I’d say, ‘no, I’m not.’ I was determined not to even be in education, and I said if I majored in the sciences, I’d never end up being the head of an institution. But, it turned out, that’s what happened.”
Davis left his role as chancellor at UAPB in 2012. But he says he had many memorable moments before his journey ended.
“What I remember most about being the chancellor is being able to make a difference.” Davis said. “The joy was really the number of young people we were helping to get a baccalaureate degree and then to inspire them to move on and earn advanced degrees.”
Davis is set to receive a proclamation from the Pine Bluff chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Oct. 20 at the organization’s annual banquet.
“One of the joys of serving is not getting accolades, but seeing the work that you’ve done pay off,” Davis said. “And I’ve been able to do that. I tried to inspire everybody to advance and one of the reasons I worked so hard to get my PhD was because I wanted to show others that it was possible and show them the way.”