John Davies, a prominent attorney, civic leader, former University of California regent and UCSD Foundation trustee died on May 20 in San Diego, following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 76.
The successful attorney and businessman dedicated countless hours and substantial effort to civic matters, helping to ensure educational excellence throughout California, enhance San Diego and its downtown region, and support the state judicial system as an advisor to two California governors on judicial appointments.
“John Davies was a trusted adviser whose insight and support proved invaluable for the campus and UC system as whole,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. “I speak for the entire campus community in expressing our deep sadness at the loss of such an esteemed leader, colleague and friend. His impact on California’s educational system is immeasurable.”
Davies and his wife Ann were recently awarded with the Chancellor’s Medal, one of the university’s highest honors given for exceptional service in support of UC San Diego’s mission. Davies served as a trustee of the UC San Diego Foundation for a span of nearly two decades. At the time of his death, Davies was serving as vice-chair of the foundation and a member of the foundation’s investments committee.
“John was truly a valued and adored member on the UC San Diego Foundation Board,” said Steve Relyea, UC San Diego Foundation president and vice chancellor of External and Business Affairs. “His leadership and thoughtful approach to tough challenges had such a positive impact on the university, the San Diego region and California. We will forever be grateful for his extraordinary dedication and vision.”
Spanning several decades, Davies was a strong supporter of UCSD, making philanthropic gifts to areas of campus ranging from student scholarships and fellowships to the UCSD Libraries and Health Sciences. A passionate book collector, Davies, most recently helped the UC San Diego Mandeville Special Collections Library, to acquire the Ephraim Morse papers — letters, records, photos and memorabilia documenting San Diego’s early years. He also supported UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, and was a key contributor to the Mark Twain Papers and the long-awaited autobiography of Mark Twain, published recently by the University of California Press.
Davies’ service to the University of California began when he was appointed to the Board of Regents by Governor Pete Wilson in 1992; his term on the board ran until 2004. He served as chair of the UC Regents from 1998 to 2000. Under his leadership, resources were allocated to establish UC Merced, as well as to attract a diverse student population after the University of California ended race-blind admissions.
“John Davies was an outstanding regent of the University of California — and a superb chair of the regents — through an extremely difficult period in the institution’s history,” said Richard Atkinson, UC president emeritus and former UC San Diego chancellor. “I count John as a personal friend and one who has been critical to the well-being of the University of California system and UC San Diego. Everyone who knew John held him in the highest esteem.”