Professor Richard “Skip” Albert Davis Jr. was born on 11 September 1937 in Joliet, Illinois. He died peacefully on 6 November 2023 in Texarkana, Texas. Professor Davis spent most of his academic career at the University of South Florida (USF), since the early 1970s. In addition to his numerous books and papers, Skip mentored more than 50 graduate students. Many of his former students maintained close contact with him throughout their career and life. He was a distinguished professor at USF and a recipient of the Francis P. Shepard Medal for Marine Geology, among many of his honors.

As a young geology student in China in the mid-1980s, I was inspired by Professor Davis’s book Depositional Systems and the edited volume Coastal Sedimentary Environments and dreamed of coming to the United States to study with him. Fortunately, everything worked out for me. After receiving my Ph.D. in 1995 and 5 years of postdoc work at Louisiana State University, I got the opportunity to return to USF in 2001 and continue the coastal research programs established by the retiring Dr. Davis. We continued to work together for another 20 years.

Dr. Davis was an inspiring teacher and mentor to numerous undergraduate and graduate students. His dedication to teaching is partly reflected in the several commonly used textbooks he wrote and cowrote over the years, including Principles of Oceanography, Deposition Systems, and Beaches and Coasts. These insightful texts have also been broadly used as reference books.

Realizing effective shore protection and coastal management requires solid understanding of the complicated coastal systems by the educated public. Dr. Davis devoted a significant amount of his time to writing and cowriting reference books that can be broadly used by the coastal community. Examples include the popular The Evolving Coast, Sea-Level Change in the Gulf of Mexico, Beaches of the Gulf Coast, Barrier Islands of the Florida Gulf Coast Peninsula, and Managing the Gulf Coast Using Geology and Engineering.

As a leading scholar in coastal geology and morphodynamics, Dr. Davis organized and gave keynote addresses at numerous conferences, and he edited and co-edited many frequently cited specialty volumes, including Beach and Nearshore Sedimentation, Coastal Sedimentary Environments, Geology of Holocene Barrier Island Systems, and Principles of Tidal Sedimentology. His benchmark paper “What is a wave-dominated coast?” laid the scientific foundation for the modern understanding of coastal morphodynamics.

Skip Davis and the Richard A. Davis Graduate Fellowship recipient Anita Marshall in 2018. Dr. Marshall is now a faculty member at the University of Florida.

Skip Davis and the Richard A. Davis Graduate Fellowship recipient Anita Marshall in 2018. Dr. Marshall is now a faculty member at the University of Florida.

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As one of the original chairs of the young USF Geology program in the early 1970s, Skip Davis oversaw its rapid growth into a research-intensive Ph.D. program. He also laid the foundation for and started the USF Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) program as the inaugural director. Today, the USF Geology and ESP programs are parts of the multidisciplinary School of Geosciences with 50 faculty members.

Since the early 2000s, Skip contributed generously to the USF Geology Alumni Society and established the Richard A. Davis (RAD) Graduate Fellowship. Since 2001, the RAD fellowship has been awarded to one M.S. and one Ph.D. student at the annual USF Geology alumni banquet. Skip’s legacy will be celebrated every year at the banquet.

Ping Wang

School of Geosciences

University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida

Richard “Skip” Davis has unfortunately left us! What sadness! We deeply regret the loss of such an important and influential scientist. He was one of the most renowned researchers in his field, marine geology, having published dozens of books—26, to be exact—which were, and still are, a reference for many other researchers and students. His contribution to science was invaluable, and his legacy will surely be remembered forever.

Richard Davis and his wife Mary Ann surrounded by students at the Laboratory of Geomorphology of the Federal University of Ceara, Brazil, in 2010.

Richard Davis and his wife Mary Ann surrounded by students at the Laboratory of Geomorphology of the Federal University of Ceara, Brazil, in 2010.

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Skip’s works have been internationally recognized, and he was a respected figure around the world. His death is a great loss to the scientific community and to all those who knew him. Passionate about his most important object of study, the beaches, he helped to build a solid background on the dynamics of these geoforms, how they evolve over time, what their dynamics are, and how they work. It was a mandatory consultation for all researchers worldwide who dealt with erosion and preservation of coastal areas, offering various perspectives on this important theme of current life in all coastal segments of the world.

In addition to being an exceptional researcher, Skip was a great friend! He was known not only for his firmness and grandeur but also for his kindness, generosity, and sense of humor. He will be deeply remembered by all those who knew him. I’m one of those people.

I went to USF by the hands of Skip Davis. I intended to do a postdoctorate in coastal geomorphology, and I always found in him great support for this claim. Skip welcomed me, guided me, found me a place to live, and distinguished me with his time and attention. Because of him, I made solid friendships in Florida, such as with Ping Wang, Judy McIlrath, and Tiffany R. Briggs, who also passed through the sieve of his work and attention. Skip did this for me as he did for many, for he was an encourager of science in all its dimensions and spared no energy and dedication to make the development of marine sciences worthwhile.

I was honored to welcome Skip to my home state of Ceará, Brazil. He and his lovely wife, Mary Ann, gave us 15 days of their precious time to explore the beaches of Brazil’s semi-arid northeast. We had great moments on the hot sands of this region of the world, as well as long discussions about the origin of the coastal features that characterize the area. A citizen of the world, Skip was also interested in the Brazilian people: he wanted, for example, to visit a supermarket, to get to know the fruits and vegetables that the population consumed in the northeast of Brazil, and to set up his picture of the anthropic development of the region visited.

Skip was known to our students in Brazil: The auditorium of the Science Center of the Federal University of Ceará, where the Department of Geography that invited him is located, was filled with more than 400 people when he gave a lecture on the world’s beaches. He enchanted the audience, inspired young people, and moved the university as only he knew how to do. Today, we are all orphans of Skip, orphans of this great man, orphans of his contributions, advice, and guidance. Dear Skip, may you continue to be as great as you were in life, wherever you go!

I express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Skip Davis. I hope that they can find comfort and peace in this difficult and painful time of departure. May Skip’s memory be a blessing to all those who knew him, and may his work continue to inspire future generations of marine scientists, as he did so well in life.

Vanda Claudino-Sales

Department of Geography

Federal University of Ceará, Brazil