Editor's Note: The inauguration of Roderick J. McDavis as the 20th president of Ohio University will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, in the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium. For more information on the inaugural activities planned for the University community or to watch the live broadcast of the ceremony, visit www.ohio.edu/inauguration/.
By Mary Alice Casey
Rod McDavis and Deborah Moses married Aug. 7, 1971, after both earned master's degrees from the University of Dayton. Their early years were spent in Toledo while McDavis worked toward his doctorate at the University of Toledo, and then in Gainesville, Fla., after he joined the University of Florida as an assistant professor of education. Deborah McDavis had already embarked on a 33-year career teaching high school and college English.
Eight years into their marriage, Rod convinced Deborah it was time to start a family. The experience ahead, however, would test both of them. Just weeks before the due date, the baby's heart stopped. Doctors had no explanation, and because it was uncommon then to induce labor, the young couple could only wait. Deborah carried "Little Rod" for two more weeks before he was delivered, the umbilical cord around his neck.
"That was our first real shock. We just sort of clung together," says Deborah McDavis.
"I always wanted a family," her husband adds. "I wanted to enjoy that period of our lives and embrace our sons. Losing our first son made it possible to better appreciate the miracle of birth and then to appreciate life."
Ryan McDavis was born a year later, in 1980, and Tony McDavis two and a half years after that. Her husband reveled in the boys, Deborah says, helping to coach their athletic teams and promoting a balance between the social and the academic, just as his parents had done. "If I had to rate his being a husband, a son and a father, he was at his best as a father," she says. "He wanted those boys so much."
The McDavis sons did, indeed, feel that love.
Ryan, now 24, lives in Coral Gables, Fla. He has a bachelor's degree in political science and an MBA, both from the University of Miami, and is clerking for a law firm to save for law school. Tony, 21, who attended Virginia's Christopher Newport University and Salisbury University in Maryland, is working full time. He plans to return to school next year and major in sociology to make possible a career helping disadvantaged youths.
"I feel that I couldn't have had a better role model in my life," Ryan says. "I think my dad really did a good job with my brother and me in teaching us how to be responsible and respectful young men."
Tony agrees. "I have a lot of friends, especially African-American friends, who didn't have role models or fathers in their lives. I had a father I could look up to."
Tony says his decision to interrupt his schooling might not have set well with many parents, let alone two in the education field. "My dad said, 'Tony, sometimes in life you're going to have to wait. You're going to have to have patience.' He made it so easy."
Rod and Deborah McDavis' parents have been a big part of their adult lives, too, often locating nearby as the couple made various career moves. Although Rod's father, who remarried after Mabel McDavis died in 2000, remains in Richmond with his bride, Thelma Hawkins, Mary Moses, 87, widowed two years ago, made the move to Athens with her daughter and son-in-law.
"Deborah and Rod are a great couple," Moses says. "I don't think any mother could ask for a better son. His mother would say that and more if she were here."
The Ultimate Homecoming | The Athens Years | A Family Man | The Academician | Leading His Alma Mater |Setting the agenda
Mary Alice Casey is editor of Ohio Today. Joan Slattery Wall, who served until recently as assistant editor, also contributed to this story, which appears in the fall issue of Ohio Today.