WSU’s first endowed deanship commemorates a Northwest pioneer

Group photo of Calvert, Davis, Schulz and Wright
Joined by Lisa Calvert, Vice President for Advancement and CEO of the WSU Foundation, WSU President Kirk Schulz, and André-Denis Wright, Dean of CAHNRS, Gordon Davis, second from left, displays a commemorative coin created by the college to honor the legacy of his ancestor, James “Cashup” Davis. Gordon and his family have created the university’s first endowed deanship (WSU Photo-Seth Truscott).


PULLMAN, WASH.—Celebrating Washington State University’s first named endowed deanship, alumnus Gordon W. Davis; WSU President Kirk Schulz; Mitzi Montoya, Executive Vice President and Provost; Lisa Calvert, Vice President for Advancement and CEO of the WSU Foundation; and André-Denis Wright, dean of WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), joined family members and distinguished faculty Wednesday, Sept. 18, to mark the creation of the Cashup Davis Family Endowed Dean of CAHNRS.

Named for 19th century Palouse pioneer James S. “Cashup” Davis, the $5 million endowment will support academic and research endeavors in CAHNRS that reflect the Davis family’s innovative, entrepreneurial spirit. The endowment will also help the college’s dean build a culture of philanthropy among university alumni and partners.

Gordon Davis, CAHNRS alumnus, visiting Steptoe Butte, site of his pioneer ancestor’s hotel (WSU Photo-Seth Truscott).

“When partnered with higher education, philanthropy has the power to transform lives and benefit our society,” said Calvert. “When fully funded, WSU’s first endowed deanship will create new opportunities to meet the needs of our students and adapt innovative solutions for agriculture across our state and around the globe.”

The endowment is being created by Cashup’s great-grandson, Dr. Gordon W. Davis, a CAHNRS alumnus who earned degrees in agricultural science and agricultural education at WSU in the late 1960s. Following a career in higher education in Texas and Tennessee, Davis founded a successful educational company, CEV Multimedia.

“I applaud the vision and commitment to excellence for CAHNRS and for Washington State University that is represented by this tremendous investment,” said Schulz. “This deanship will generate reliable unrestricted funding that will position the college to respond nimbly to emerging strategic opportunities, for which other funding may not be readily available.”

Created to attract world-class college leadership, the Cashup Davis Family Endowed Dean will support meaningful experience-based learning opportunities for students; emerging academic and research opportunities and programs of excellence; and funding transformational projects.

“WSU aims to establish similar endowed leadership positions for each of our colleges as we continue our drive to be among the top 25 public research universities in the nation,” Schulz added. “Thanks to Dr. Davis’s generosity, we are excited to begin that journey today.”

“From his earliest days at Washington State University, Gordon has pursued a passion for excellence,” said Wright. “By creating this first endowed deanship at CAHNRS, he’s infusing our students, faculty, and programs with that same drive, helping us achieve world-changing potential.”

The Cashup Davis Family Endowed Dean honors the spirit of “Cashup” Davis, an enterprising English immigrant who homesteaded on the Palouse, building a now-vanished three-story hotel atop 3,612-foot Steptoe Butte in 1888.

James S. “Cashup” Davis (WSU illustration)

Nicknamed for his willingness to offer “cash up” on the table in trade—a rarity in pioneer days—Davis was a fervent promoter of the region, and praised the potential, fertility, and beauty of the Palouse—the future breadbasket of the Pacific Northwest.

“My great-grandfather had an incredible sense of vision,” Gordon Davis said. “While I’ve never met him, he has been a mentor to me. I’ve found success in life because of that same vision: no matter how good you are, you can always do better. Never stop aspiring to excellence.

“Through this endowment in our family’s name, I’m asking fellow Cougars to do the same,” Davis added.

As part of the celebration, the college is displaying James Davis’ historic telescope, top hat, and other artifacts relating the pioneer’s story in the Hulbert Hall lobby at Pullman.

Learn more about James S. “Cashup” Davis and Gordon Davis here.

CAHNRS Dean André-Denis Wright joined by Davis family members at a WSU Foundation ceremony Sept. 18 (WSU Photo-Seth Truscott).
Exhibit showing photos, video display, telescope
An exhibit on the legacy of James S. “Cashup” Davis is now on display at Hulbert Hall, home to WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (WSU Photo-Seth Truscott).