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Obituary: Davidson, Vern George

Age 83

DAVIDSON, Vern George

Vern Davidson was born on August 6, 1929 to Margaret and Vern Davidson in Los Angeles, California and passed away on July 24, 2012 in Spokane, Washington. Vern is survived by his sister, Virginia Kiefer, as well as his nieces, nephew, and cousins. Vern will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and the thousands of students who passed through the doors of the University of Ghana where he was a Lecturer, the Institute of Public Administration of the University of Malawi, where he was Principal and the founding Professor of Law, and most recently, Gonzaga University School of Law, until his retirement in 2004.

Vern commenced his long relationship with education after graduating from Wilson High School in 1947. He then attended the University of California at Los Angeles and earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science. He next attended law school at UCLA where he was Order of the Coif, Case and Comment Editor of the Law Review, and President of the Law Student’s Association. While he was a student at UCLA he became involved in the Socialist movement, and remained a self-proclaimed pacifist throughout his life.

Following graduation from law school, Vern served as an Associate in Law at Columbia University, and the following year, through a program designed to staff African law schools, became a lecturer at the University of Ghana in Africa. In 1964 he began an exceptional decade of service to the government and people of Malawi. After serving as a lecturer in law at the University of Malawi, he founded the nation’s first law school and began a five year tenure as its dean. While dean, he assumed additional duties as principal of both the University’s Institute of Public Administration and the Staff Training College of the Office of the President of Malawi. Today, Malawi is an emerging democracy guided by many individuals who received their formative training from Vern Davidson. The Chief Justice and the associate members of the Malawi Supreme Court, several cabinet ministers, and the leadership of the majority party are all his former students. His educational legacy will undoubtedly grow as future leaders are educated at the very institutions he helped found and nurture.

In 1974 he returned to the United States and began his teaching career at Gonzaga University School of Law. Over the next three decades, Vern Davidson would serve both the law school and its students with exceptional skill, energy and commitment as Professor and, for 18 years, as Associate Dean. During his tenure at Gonzaga, Professor Davidson was the recipient of both the Orland Distinguished Professor and Teacher of the Year awards, combining a demanding Socratic approach with an interesting and often entertaining classroom style. In 1995, he achieved perhaps the pinnacle of recognition at Gonzaga University School of Law, when he received The Gonzaga Law Medal. Upon his retirement from Gonzaga in 2004, Spokane Mayor James E. West proclaimed April 28, 2004, as “Vern Davidson Day.”

Vern will be dearly missed by his family, friends, students and colleagues, but there is no question in anyone’s mind, that his legacy, lives on.

A celebration of Vern’s life will be held Saturday, September 8th at 5:00 pm on the back lawn of the Gonzaga University School of Law.