Maxine Davis, as former Eastern Washington University basketball coach Jerry Krause puts it, was “a master teacher.”
Davis, a gymnastics and dance coach who was inducted into the EWU Athletics Hall of Fame, died Oct. 28. She was 81.
The Monessen, Pennsylvania, native and Deer Park resident coached gymnastics for nine seasons at EWU – known as Eastern Washington State College until 1977 – through the 70s, with national championship appearances in each season. In addition to heading the university’s dance and gymnastics program, Davis also taught health sciences and physical education classes.
She retired from EWU in 2000, according to her obituary, after which she went on to teach at Gonzaga University. All told, Davis taught for more than 40 years, including 23 as a gymnastics and dance instructor, and was inducted into the EWU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008.
“She was tremendous. She could really teach skills of anything in physical education,” Krause said. “She really related well to students. She had not only a natural affinity to that, but that was just a part of her. She loved kids, and that’s why she was a successful teacher and coach.”
In contrast to college athletics today, EWU coaches during Davis’ time were also teachers, said Krause, who chaired the physical education department at the time and also taught kinesiology. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Davis was a first aid certification specialist for EWU for many years, he said.
Krause, the 17-year basketball coach and fellow EWU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, remembers learning from how Davis engaged with her students.
“It probably really improved my coaching aspect of better player relationships. She was really good at that, and I wasn’t as good,” he said. “She was a good people person, and she related well to people. … It was natural for her.”
Chris Anderson, one of Davis’ students at EWU, said he met Davis as a freshman coming out of Cheney High School around 1979.
A freestyle dancer to that point, Anderson said Davis taught him the technique and terminology needed for him to pursue a career in the craft. Anderson’s credits include choreography for the Bridal Festival at the Spokane Convention center.
Beyond the technique, Anderson said Davis taught him and her other students to let their inner selves shine, encouraging them to want to step forward and “be above average.”
“She didn’t just teach us dance,” he said. “She taught us life and how the experience of dance can help a person come out of their shell.”
Cathy Kelly, one of Davis’ students in the 1980s, said Davis “was pretty much an icon at Eastern Washington University.”
Kelly, who is Krause’s wife, said Davis would sometimes describe her as her adopted daughter. She got the impression that’s what Davis was like with all of her students.
The relationship carried into Kelly’s professional life as a health and physical education teacher at Sheridan High School in Wyoming, where Kelly often called Davis for advice.
“She would always tell us that we would be her students for life,” Kelly said, “and that was true.”
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