Chemistry Senior Lecturer Retires After 15 Years

Crimson/joyce Varughese

Retiring Chemistry senior lecturer JAMES E. DAVIS receives a jesting token of appreciation from students and teaching fellows yesterday after delivering his final lecture.

Jim E. Davis, a longtime senior lecturer on chemistry, ended his 15-year Harvard career yesterday with his final Chemistry 5 lecture—and a retirement celebration.

“The best time to leave a job is while you still love it,” said Davis, whose departure from the University attracted a slew of special guests.

Former students, the singing group Din and Tonics and the hosts of National Public Radio’s “Car Talk” all came to honor Davis.

“It sort of feels like a pre-need memorial service,” Davis joked during the celebration.

Davis, a Magnolia, Miss. native, began higher education at Mississippi State University before going on to receive a doctorate at MIT and a post-doctoral degree at Cal Tech. His first teaching job was at the University of Pennsylvania, where he spent 15 years. Davis was then recruited for an administrative position in biochemistry at Harvard.


“I said I was very interested in the job, but only if it included the opportunity to teach, because I love teaching,” Davis told The Crimson.

Harvard agreed, and Davis came to Cambridge in 1987.

He now serves as head tutor and coordinator of laboratories for the chemistry department. Davis also serves as a resident tutor in Dunster House.

Davis was drawn into other aspects of student life, including theater and music. He performed in a student production of West Side Story, and served as an advisor to both the Din and Tonics and the Krokodiloes.

Yesterday’s event marked another step in Davis’ planned transition to retirement.

The celebration kicked off with shouts and applause from the crowded Science Center lecture hall, as Davis and his wife Doralene looked on.

Chem 5 teaching fellow Roger D. Huffstetler opened the proceedings with an imitation of Davis which drew laughs. Davis was teased for his Southern dialect and the “Good morning!” with which he greets his students.

Davis was also presented with a personalizedjersey from the football team. The Din and Tonics then performed a few songs for the class.

Singing the traditional drinking song “Johnny Harvard,” members of the a cappella group poured Davis a Beefeater gin and tonic.

One member of the group, James A. Crawford ’03, who is also a Crimson editor, remembered taking Chem 5 during his first year. He recalled performing in Anything Goes, a musical that Davis attended.