In Memoriam: Richard Davison

We were saddened to learn of the death of John Updike Society member Richard Davison, who passed away peacefully at his home on Jan. 19, 2023. He was 88. Richard was a charter member of the society and attended the first four conferences in Reading, Pa., Boston, and Columbia, S.C. with his wife, Dr. Milena Davison.

Those who didn’t know him often did a double-take because of his slight resemblance to Updike, and he took delight in telling the story of when he first met Updike. The latter immediately saw the resemblance and joked that it was like looking into a mirror. They decided that Richard, who was shorter than the author, was “John Updike, Jr.”

Because of the resemblance, Richard, a professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, offered to read from Updike’s work at the society’s first conference in Reading. He thought it might be fun, and it was. As the featured reader for the closing dinner at Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar Restaurant in Reading, which Updike frequented when he was a junior working as a copy boy at the Reading Eagle across the street, Richard read from Rabbit, Run and Updike’s writings about Shillington and Reading. Always willing to help, Richard donated to support the society’s mission and also moderated a conference session in Boston. He was the embodiment of the “gentleman scholar,” who enjoyed talking about literature and was always gracious.

Richard and Milena at the 4th Biennial JUS Conference in South Carolina

In addition to his being active in the Updike society, the Legacy obituary noted that Davison was a past president of the Frank Norris Society and also a member of the Hemingway and Fitzgerald societies. He published on a wide range of authors, including Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Stephen Crane, Hart Crane, Fitzgerald, Robert Penn Warren, Steinbeck, Albee, Salinger, and Hemingway. A passionate theater-goer as well, he co-edited two books on theater with Jackson Bryer and shared his passions with students. He was honored in 2001 with the University of Delaware College of Arts and Science Teaching Award.

During a distinguished career Richard was also a visiting professor at Washington College and at universities in Essen and Cologne, Germany. Additionally, he directed the English Graduate Program at Seattle University during his tenure there, and in 1966 he hosted 39 episodes of a TV series on Literature and Life. The two naturally went together for Richard, and the Updike Society is richer for his having been a member. He will be missed, and we offer our deepest condolences to Milena and the couple’s three children and one grandchild.

Society members at the 3rd Biennial Conference pose in front of the Updikes’ Plowville farmhouse. Richard and Milena Davison are in the back row, third and fourth from the left.

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