Fr. William Davis, former diocesan superintendent of schools, dies at age 82

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Oblate Father William F. Davis, former diocesan superintendent of schools, died July 4 at the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in Childs, Md. He was 82.

He was born Oct., 2, 1933, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of the late William F. and Agnes Allen Davis.

He attended Niagara University, where his classmates inspired him to join them at their Oblate seminary.

He was ordained to the priesthood June 3, 1961, by Bishop Edward J. Schlotterback at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Del.

He continued his education by earning a master's in history from Villanova University in 1967 and a doctorate in education at Catholic University in Washington.

Father Davis had a distinguished career in education as a teacher, principal, superintendent and education official. He fervently defended the value of Catholic education throughout his lifetime, calling Catholic schools the "best tradition of the church."

During his 17 years of service as an official with the U.S. bishop's education department, Father Davis worked with three White House administrations and met with congressional staff members to advocate for the inclusion of Catholic schools in education initiatives. He testified before Congress and worked behind the scenes on Supreme Court briefs concerning access to remedial education for Catholic school students.

Father Davis served as superintendent of schools in the Arlington Diocese from 1978 to 1986. Before each school year, he wrote a state of the union-style letter that was published in the Catholic Herald to express warm wishes and brief the diocesan community on his vision for the upcoming year in Catholic education.

In an article published January 1980, Father Davis said Catholic schools are worth the price because they are "educating the most precious resource the church and our society has - the young."

In 1984, he was elected to a one-year term as president of the Virginia Council for Private Education, which encompasses more than 200 schools. In 1986, he and Lois King Draina formed the Virginia Catholic Education Association to oversee the self-study process for accreditation of the schools in the Arlington and Richmond dioceses.

Prior to serving in the Arlington Diocese, Father Davis was principal of Father Judge High School in Philadelphia, where he served previously as assistant principal and director of studies. He was a member of the committee that developed the philosophy, goals and objectives for the secondary school system of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

"Father Davis was a great champion of Catholic education," said Very Rev. James J. Greenfield, oblate provincial. "I remember from my days as a student when he was principal. He had a vision to make Father Judge a great school where students excelled in the places where their talents were most abundant. He was an inclusive leader no matter where he worked, bringing his commitment as a pastor to Catholic schools."

He is survived by his confreres in the Oblates, as well as by nieces and nephews. His brother and sister-in-law, Donald and Claire Davis, preceded him in death.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered July 8 at 11:15 a.m. at Our Lady of Light Chapel, 1120 Blue Ball Rd., Elkton, Md. A viewing will precede the Mass from 9 to 11 a.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his name to the Oblate Development Fund, 2200 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington, Del., 19806.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016