Marketing Professor Robert Davis Dies

Davis taught marketing at Stanford GSB for more than three decades, had been a board member of many companies, and been vice president of two major firms.

August 01, 1995

Robert T. Davis, the Sebastian S. Kresge Professor of Marketing, Emeritus, at Stanford Business School, died August 17 at Stanford University Hospital. Davis taught marketing at the Business School for more than three decades and had been a board member of many companies as well as vice president of two major firms: Nike, Inc., and Varian Associates, Inc. He was 74 and lived in Los Altos Hills, Calif. The cause of death was pneumonia.

“Bob Davis was a very valuable member of Nike’s board of directors for over 10 years, a period in which Nike sales quintupled,” said Philip H. Knight, chairman and CEO of Nike. “I am grateful not only for his sound business advice, but also for his creative approach to marketing. His warmth, sense of humor, and character will leave, for me, an enormous void.” Davis had been a board member of more than 30 firms, including Saga Corp., Roman Meal Co., Kaiser Cement Corp., Armor All Products Corp, Blitz-Weinhard Co., and Anthem Electronics, Inc.

Davis was known to his colleagues as a “marketer’s marketer.” Said his longtime friend, emeritus professor James T. S. Porterfield: “He was one of the finest teachers the Business School has ever had. Bob had an almost unique relationship with business and its problems through his active participation in business. He added a note of pragmatism to our curriculum.”

Davis, who joined the Stanford Business School faculty in 1958, was an expert in the fields of sales management, marketing management at the operating level, and marketing strategy. Besides teaching MBA students, Davis was also director of the Stanford Executive Program and the Sloan Program, a masters program for mid-level managers. He was the recipient of the School’s Nicholas Salgo Award for Distinguished Teaching and the Stanford GSB Alumni Association’s Silver Apple Award for his service to alumni.

“Bob Davis was one of the premier marketing teachers in the world,” said David B. Montgomery, a colleague at Stanford Business School and, currently, the executive director of the Marketing Science Institute in Cambridge, Mass. “He was a much sought after executive educator throughout the globe, and he is noted for his contributions to marketing practice and to the interface between marketing academics and the practice of marketing management. He was also one of the early academic trustees of the Marketing Science Institute industry/academic partnership. To those of us privileged to know him, he was a friend of rare good humor and bright, optimistic demeanor.”

Added accounting professor Charles T. Horngren: “He brought joy to the world, Bob Davis did. We’ll all miss him.”

Davis received his AB, MBA, and DCS from Harvard. Except for leaves of absence to work for Varian and Nike, his academic career lasted from 1946 to his retirement in 1990. Before joining the Stanford faculty, Davis taught at St. Lawrence University, Dartmouth College, and Harvard. He co-authored seven textbooks including Marketing in Emerging Companies (Addison-Wesley, 1985) and Marketing Management Casebook (Irwin, 4th edition, 1984). His most recent journal article, “Alternative Succession Strategies,” will be published in the Summer 1995 issue of Directors & Boards.

He is survived by his wife Hazel of Los Altos Hills, Calif.; sons Stephen of Novato, Calif., Peter of Champain-Urbana, Ill., and John of Portland Ore.; two daughters-in-law; and six grandchildren. He also leaves a brother and two sisters: Dr. Donald Davis, and Jean Davis of Orlando, Fla., and Dorothy Davis, of Amherst, Mass.

Funeral services will be private. The family asks that no flowers be sent, although donations to the Anne Kristen Davis Scholarship Fund, honoring his late grand-daughter, would be welcome. They should be sent to the Office of Development, Encina Hall, Stanford University.

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