Doug Davis
bio for Collins Professorship program
2/21/03

Doug Davis is the only child of his parents, Gertrude and Morris.  He grew up in Ortonville, Minnesota. He read constantly, enjoyed competitive card and board games, and was lucky in his neighborhood group of friends. His father gave him a 22 caliber rifle when he was 12. He was memorably un-athletic, and he excelled at school.  Sometime in his mid-teens (after his mother’s death) he became socially clever, won some awards at debate, and earned the high school yearbook epithet "extemporaneous wit."  At the University of Minnesota he discovered first that he did not have a real talent for physics, and then that he did for courses taught in the "Humanities Program," a core liberal arts curriculum patterned on similar experiments at Columbia and the University of Chicago.  He was a student government wonk for three years. He majored in psychology, minored in anthropology and philosophy, and read a little Freud and a lot of Eliot, Mann, and Dostoevsky.  He fell in love with Susan Schaefer in the fall of 1964,[1] his last year at the U.; and at the end of that year she went to Morocco in the Peace Corps and Doug to South India as an exchange student.  They got back together in Ann Arbor in the fall of 1967, and have been together ever since. 

At late-60s Michigan Doug found a brilliant grad-school micro-society in Psychology and Anthropology, read a lot of Freud, fancied himself an "ego psychologist," and began to imagine doing cross-cultural social science. Susan and he married in 1969 and headed for Morocco the following year. Doug moved to Sidi Qasm Zawiya with two semesters of Moroccan colloquial Arabic, and over the long months becoming a speaker of darija he found a second home town.  In 1971 Morocco Peace Corps hired him to work in a summer training program for teachers of high school English, and he took a psychologist's role in training PCV rural extension agents in South India the following winter.  He was back in Morocco when Jane Widseth tracked him through Peace Corps in spring, 1972, with news that Haverford College was looking for a Personality Psychologist.  He was hired, after telephone interviews, on a one-year Instructor’s contract, and he was selected in a tenure-track search the following year. The rest is Haverford history.

Doug joined a Haverford Psychology Department consisting of Douglas Heath, Sidney Perloe, and Thomas D'Andrea, respectively a psychodynamic developmentalist, a social cognitivist, and a Skinnerian psycholinguist.  He constructed a Ph.D. project integrating an evaluative study of episodic memory processes in Moroccan national census interviews with recall for a guided tour of Sharpless Hall, and he defended this (un-cited) project in the fall of 1974. His early Haverford College work involved Bayesian models of clinical judgment; and his teaching settled around personality theory and psychopathology. Laila was born in January, 1977. Steve Cary called one winter evening in 1978 to tell him he would be awarded tenure.  Susan and he were recruited by the Harvard Adolescence Project in 1980 and spent the next two academic years training as “field guide” anthropologists with Bea and John Whiting and studying adolescence in Zawiya. "Adolescence in a Moroccan Town" was published in 1989, after additional fieldwork and Doug’s promotion to Professor; and since the early 80s Doug has thought of himself as an “anthropological psychologist.” Doug and Susan became “convinced” members of the Society of Friends in the 1980s, and Quaker outreach and the Peace Testimony have been important in both their lives since.

Bob Gavin introduced Doug to the UCSD p-System in 1981 and he took an Apple II to Zawiya in 1982 and, again, the rest is history. Doug has chaired Haverford’s computing committee several times, has talked the College into roughly 50% funding of his seventeen personal computer systems over the years, and is a charter member of the “Collaborative Information Office(r).” The World Wide Web, of course, changed everything. Doug started collecting anecdotes like those recounted in Brian Knatz's Webster’s Weekly in 1994. In 1995 he was awarded a Fulbright to study the social impact of the Internet in Morocco, and in 1999 he received a Haverford College award for innovation in teaching with technology.  His recent thesis students have studied internet chat, role-playing games, and web pages as expressions of personality, and they all deserve the handle “cyber-personologist.” Doug is currently directing “Al-Musharaka,” a web-based collaborative for teaching about the Middle East, the Arabs, and Islam sponsored by the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE).



[1] Mon Dieu ! Qu'elle était belle!