Since its earliest days, the University of Alaska has seen many former students appointed to its governing board. But John Davies, who joined the regents in 2015, has an almost unprecedented record of involvement with the institution.
He’s been not only a student but also a professor, research unit director and alumni association board president. In addition, he served as a state legislator on the budget committee overseeing the institution.
“I’ve been connected with the university in one way or another for most of life here in Alaska, which has been over 45 years,” he said shortly after being appointed as a regent.
After graduating from high school and college in the Pacific Northwest, Davies’ long association with UA began in 1967, when he came to Alaska to climb mountains and study geophysics. He earned a master’s degree here and then, in 1975, a doctorate.
By then, he had landed a research position at Columbia University in New York, but he returned to Alaska in 1981 to join the state Department of Natural Resources as a geophysicist. Five years later, he became the state seismologist, a joint faculty position with the UAF Geophysical Institute. He added the title of coordinating scientist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory a few years later and helped create what is today the Alaska Earthquake Center. (The Geophysical Institute operates both.)
In 1992, Davies’ appetite for politics, whetted by a term on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, led him to the Alaska House of Representatives, where he served five terms as a Democrat. After an unsuccessful bid for the Alaska Senate in 2002, he spent a dozen years as a policy researcher with the industry-sponsored nonprofit Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks. He also was re-elected to the borough assembly.
Shortly after his appointment to the regents in 2015, Davies talked about his goals.
“It’s important that we can keep our eye on the prize, which is not necessarily pure workforce development but developing students and developing people who can think, and being a fundamental university which has as its basis teaching students, doing research and doing public service,” he said. “We have to make sure as we wind down some things at the university that we don’t wind down to the extent that we can’t move forward through this crisis without maintaining those kinds of basic enterprises that a university is supposed to do.”
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