Beloved, longtime St. Petersburg College Baseball Coach Edward “Ed” Davis, of Dunedin, died Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. He was 84.
Coach Davis came to St. Petersburg (Junior) College’s Clearwater Campus in 1964 and served the college for 28 years as its baseball coach. He also taught physical education classes. As a member of the faculty, Coach Davis was instrumental in the major curriculum reform to move students into lifetime wellness and health.
During his time as coach, he produced 692 wins and four major leaguers – Kurt Abbott, Ben Hayes, Howard Johnson and Tim Teufel. But more than producing amazing athletes and winning teams, Coach Davis prepared students for life and molded college students into young men. He had high expectations for student athletes and held them accountable for their actions.
One of those players was Jeff Davis, who played for Coach Davis in 1970-71, then later returned to the college as athletic director in 1989.
“My favorite quote of his was ‘In the game of baseball, you win a few, you lose a few and some get rained out,’” Davis said. “Of course, he was referring to games, but that’s a real parallel to life.”
Coach Davis retired in 1996. Friends and colleagues recall a man who cared for and nurtured students and players and taught them that achievements in the classroom and in life far outweighed success on a baseball field. Many of his former players continued to visit him over the years to thank him for being a needed role model in their lives.
“The whole competition thing drives you as a coach, but he never let that get bigger than his caring for his players and what he taught them – that school is important,” said longtime friend and colleague Maggie Knoop. “He was a great guy in what he taught his players to be and they remember it. I’ve talked to many of them and they still remember.”
Knoop, a former physical education instructor, said Coach Davis was also “the best boss – the kind of boss everyone should have.”
A native of Johnstown, Pa., Coach Davis served in the United States Army during the Korean conflict and was stationed in Germany. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1956, he moved to Florida to attend college and pitch for the University of Florida baseball team. He graduated with a master’s degree in physical education. Coach Davis was an avid Florida Gators fan. He attended the 1996 college football National Championship game with longtime friend and colleague Jeff Cesta. The Gators won and Coach Davis was thrilled. Cesta said it is a memory he’ll always cherish.
“One of the things that I admired most about Coach was that he had a very genuine concern for the welfare of his players in the sense that he cared more about their academic and lifelong success than their wins and losses on the baseball field,” said Cesta, SPC’s director of Early College, Dual Enrollment & Early Admission Programs.
In 2014, Coach Davis was honored by the college as a professor emeritus, a distinction reserved for the most highly regarded former faculty members.
Coach Davis welcomed his colleagues and employees into his life like a family, said Jennifer Lechner, a professor of Education on the Seminole campus. He had a larger-than-life presence. A tall man with the booming voice necessary to teach and coach outdoors in open spaces, “he was just a teddy bear on the inside,” Lechner said.
“I can’t say how generous he was. What he did, he left an indelible mark,” Lechner said.
Just one small example, Lechner said, was the way twice each year he would throw parties to thank and show his support for the campus maintenance crews.
Coach Davis is survived by his loving wife, Nan, his brother, Herb, and sister, Credene. He was preceded in death by three brothers, Bob, Walt, and Harry; and one sister, Phyllis.
“Ed deeply loved his beautiful wife, Nan, and his entire St. Petersburg College family,” said Jeff Davis, the former athletic director and associate provost of the Clearwater campus. “He’ll be greatly missed by the legions he influenced and cared for over the years.”
A memorial service will be held at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 750 San Salvador Dr., Dunedin, at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12.
Coach’s family and friends have graciously established the Edward and Nancy Davis Memorial Scholarship Fund to recognize his significant contributions. To contribute to his scholarship, please make your check payable to the St. Petersburg College Foundation, P.O. Box 13489, St. Petersburg, FL 33733-3489 and indicate “Coach Davis Memorial Scholarship.” For those who prefer to contribute electronically, please click here: http://www.spcollege.edu/foundation/, select “Donate Now” and indicate Coach Davis Memorial Scholarship.