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Dr. Charles B. Davey, Professor Emeritus of Forestry, Plant Pathology, and Soil Science

Dr. Charles (Chuck) B. Davey, born in 1928, was raised in upstate NY, living in both Rochester and Scottsville, NY. On his beloved farm, he learned the land as he farmed with his Grandfather, and he learned the great bodies of water, sailing and canoeing the great lakes.

Chuck received his B.S. in Forestry from the New York State College of Forestry in Syracuse, NY in 1950. He then traveled to Madison, WI to attend the University of Wisconsin and its highly touted Department of Soil Science. He received a M.S. in Forest Soils from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1952, and a Ph.D. in Forest Soils and Microbiology in 1955.

Chuck met two of the most influential people in his life during his time in Wisconsin: a young coed, soon to be wife, Elizabeth (Beth) Thompson; and the famous Russian forest soil scientist Dr. Sergei Wilde (a.k.a Doc Wilde). There are many entertaining stories, independently verified by Chuck and UW-Madison faculty, about Doc’s field excursions with his graduate students to the Northwoods of Wisconsin where full days of research were closed with lively piano and/or viola sessions at the Kemp Biological Station. Shortly before Chuck’s death, he was presented with an original type-set textbook Forest Soils by Dr. Sergei Wilde.

Upon graduation, Chuck served his county in the U.S. Army Chemical Corp doing classified work. He then spent five years at the USDA Experiment Station in Beltsville, MD, where he researched the relationships between soil microbiology and plant diseases.

With a desire to teach as well as to do research, Chuck left the USDA in 1962, and was appointed an Associate Professor at N.C. State in three departments; Soil Science, Forestry, and Plant Pathology. Chuck’s appointment in three departments was a testimony to his breadth of knowledge and the novel interdisciplinary approach (decades before interdisciplinary research was valued) he applied toward forest soil and forest health issues. Chuck was promoted to Professor in 1965 and dutifully served as Head of the Department of Forestry from 1970-78, and then returned back to his true joy of research and teaching. He was named Carl Alwin Schenck Professor of Forestry in 1978.  In 1992, Chuck retired (at least from NC State), but continued teaching, and remained active in research, domestic and international consulting and mentoring young faculty and graduate students.

Chuck’s early research explored the important relationships among microbial ecology, soil fertility, forest productivity and health. Chuck conducted pioneering research in mycorrhizae and forest regeneration; soil-plant nutrition; isolation and propagation of acid-tolerant, Rhizobium strains that ensured the successful establishment clover as a cover crop that increased fertility and reduced aggressive weeds in newly established forests. His early research in tree nutrition resulted in the formation of NC State Forest Fertilization Cooperative, today the largest forest nutrition cooperative in the world. Chuck was also a visionary for the growing need for healthy seedlings required for reforestation and afforestation efforts worldwide. He developed a Forest Nursery Management Program that assisted in the establishment of many state, federal and private forest industries nurseries throughout the world and trained numerous Forest Nursery Managers. He relished the challenges and answers found by working in environments around the globe with anyone and everyone who could add to the work. Many of Chuck’s colleagues considered him to be one of the founders of forest soil science in North America!

Despite his illustrious career as a research scientist, he remained humble and dedicated himself to mentoring graduate students. Many of his past students often begin a sentence describing what a brilliant scientist Chuck was, but before they can complete their sentence, they interject that he was an equally kind, humble, and an extraordinary mentor and friend. Chuck cherished getting to know each student as a person and followed his/her careers. Chuck mentored women, underrepresented minorities, and foreign students before there were national programs focused on these important, yet under-represented, populations in forestry and soil science.

Upon hearing that Chuck passed away, Dr. Daniel Richter, Professor of Forest Soils at Duke University, graciously stated “A titan has left. What a gentle man. I think I never met a professor more sincere in his relations to his students. Chuck was a teacher we can all live up to.”  Dr. Michele Schoeneberger, a graduate student mentored by Chuck and now the Research Program Lead and Soil Scientist at the USDA National Agroforestry Center, noted “Chuck relished the atmosphere the graduate students created during his era.” Chuck supervised or co-supervised more than 100 Ph.D. and 50 M.S. students during his career.

Chuck was the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. Among them, he received the Campbell Soup Annual Award for Outstanding Research in Vegetable Crops (1963), NC State Outstanding Professor (1968), Barrington Moore Award for Biological Research from the Society of American Foresters (1982), Gamma Delta Award of Merit (1983), NC State Distinguished Graduate Professor (1989), Fellows of the Society of American Foresters (2004). Chuck also served as President of the Soil Science Society of America (1976).

Chuck is survived by Beth, his wife of 63 years, their 3 children: Douglas, Barbara, and Andrew Davey and their families.

Having taken his last motorcycle ride, sung his last song, toasted family and friends, sailed the seas, a man of his word and his work, his ashes will be returned to the earth.

The Memorial Celebration of Chuck’s life was held Saturday, July 18, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at West Raleigh Presbyterian Church, 27 Horne Street, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.

The Davey family encourages anyone interested in celebrating Dr. Charles Davey’s life to consider sharing fellowship with others as he would. And if you are inclined to make a donation in his memory, the following selections have been important to Chuck and Beth for many years.

Charles B. Davey Graduate Fellowship for Excellence in Biological Sciences

Make a Gift online.
Choose “Other” and list Charles B. Davey Graduate Fellowship for Excellence in Biological Science

or mail to: NC State Natural Resources Foundation Inc.
Campus Box 8010
Raleigh NC 27695

James B. Hunt Hunt Library; in support of biological sciences.

Make a Gift Online.
or mail to: J.B Hunt Library
Campus Box 7132
Raleigh, NC 27606

West Raleigh Presbyterian Church,
27 Horne St. Raleigh, NC 27607

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Stith (Tom) Gower, Professor and Head, Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, NC State, Raleigh NC 27695-8008, phone # (919) 515-3873, Email