Luther College Chips

Dan Davis appointed as new Qualley Chair

Associate+Professor+of+Classics+Dan+Davis+teaches+at+an+archaeological+expedition.
Associate Professor of Classics Dan Davis teaches at an archaeological expedition.

Associate Professor of Classics Dan Davis teaches at an archaeological expedition.

Photo Courtesy of Dan Davis

Photo Courtesy of Dan Davis

Associate Professor of Classics Dan Davis teaches at an archaeological expedition.

Emma Busch, Staff Writer

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Associate Professor of Classics Dan Davis was awarded the Orlando W. Qualley Chair of Classical Languages in August.

The Qualley Chair was the first endowed faculty chair established at Luther College and named in honor of Orlando W. “Pip” Qualley, a prominent Luther graduate and faculty member.

After graduating in 1918, Qualley began his six decadeslong career at Luther in the classics department. During this time, he also served as Luther’s first Dean, first Vice President, the Registrar, and the football and basketball coach before retiring in 1969. The O.W. Qualley Lounge in the Center for Faith and Life (CFL) is also named in his honor.

According to Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Kevin Kraus, endowed chairs are developed with the assistance of donations to Luther and enable faculty to enrich academic life.

“Friends of the college, family members, grateful students, or colleagues have given money to create endowments,” Kraus said. “The money is used partly to pay the salary, but also to provide what we call programming money for the person holding the chair, that they get to use for travel, books, and for research. It isn’t the kind of thing that everybody has available to them.”

Holders of endowed faculty chairs are chosen by the Dean, the President, and senior faculty of the department with which the endowed chair is associated. Kraus says that Davis was chosen for his approach to his field of study.

“He’s a really good professor, a strong teacher, and a great scholar,” Kraus said. “He is what he would call a nautical archaeologist, and one of his favorite things to do is study shipwrecks from ancient times and bring up artifacts that help us understand life during those time periods.”

Instructor in Classics Anne Bulliung says Davis is a worthy holder of the Qualley Chair because of the leadership he displays for his students.

Photo Courtesy of Dan Davis
Robert Ballard and Associate Professor of Classics Dan Davis working together in the Black Sea.

“Dan is an obvious choice since he is an excellent language teacher of both Greek and Latin,” Bulliung said. “Professor Davis regularly takes part in archaeological expeditions in Greece and Turkey, often underwater. Since Davis arrived at Luther in 2011, he has taken dozens of students with him on these expeditions and taught them all he knows every step of the way.”

Davis credits his time in the Navy for directing him towards his field of study.

“I was in the Navy for several years as a diver,” Davis said. “Right before I got out, I was about 24 years old and thinking about doing something with archaeology. I was forced to take part in an exercise in which we helped the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with an exploration of the Civil War ironclad, called The Monitor, off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.”

Davis said a conversation with those involved in the NOAA exploration piqued his interest in pursuing archaeology. 

“I remember talking with some of the NOAA divers, who are professional archeologists, and asking them how I become an underwater archaeologist,” Davis said. “I had a diving background and was already interested in the ancient world. They said I should go to Texas A&M University, so after I got out [of the Navy] I ended up going there.”

Since then, Davis has done many explorations involving ancient shipwrecks.

According to Davis, he does not yet have a definitive plan for the money the Qualley Chair awarded him, but he hopes to use it to benefit Luther students.

“I’m thinking it will be to help fund student travel and organize archeological projects in Greece and potentially in the future, Israel,” Davis said. “I’ve just been invited to take part in an archeological expedition to Caesarea, which is this ancient site in Israel. I’m working with a couple other people, including some professors at [Vanderbilt University], and we are envisioning a field school now for undergraduates.”

Davis sees the Qualley Chair as a privilege as well as an opportunity and hopes to inspire students.

“If I can inject some excitement into students about the ancient world and why it matters today in a very technologically oriented 21st century, then I will have done my job,” Davis said.

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