In Memoriam: Joel Putnam Davis


The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with sorrow the death on June 9, 2016, of former Life Trustee, Joel Putnam Davis, age 89.

Joel’s affiliation with WHOI began as an Associate in 1955.  He was elected to the Corporation in 1984, and he joined the WHOI Board of Trustees three years later.  He was elected an Honorary Trustee (now Life Trustee) in 1997.  Over the years, Joel served on the Development Committee and the Education Committee, which was his greatest interest.

Joel was a nephew of the late Arthur Vining Davis, and was a Trustee of The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, a long-time contributing organization to the Oceanographic’s education programs.  Joel was also a Life Trustee of Cape Cod Academy.

Joel graduated from Harvard in 1951, where he met his wife, Ruth (Hiebert) Davis, a Radcliffe graduate the same year.  An avid sailor, Joel was early drawn to the mission of WHOI, and even hoped to pursue a doctorate in oceanography, plans that were dropped when his father died.

Joel was a former trustee of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), and was key in helping that organization raise $1.5 million in endowment for the MBL/WHOI Library.  Ruth Davis always shared Joel’s passion for education, and served for several years as volunteer archivist and rare books librarian for MBL, which awarded her its Distinguished Service Award in 1988.

Joel is survived by his wife Ruth, who always accompanied him to Board and Corporation meetings at WHOI, and who delighted in the work of the Oceanographic as much as Joel.  He is also survived by his and Ruth’s children, Christopher, Jonathan, Meg and Serena, as well as several grandchildren.  No details are yet available about a memorial service.


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