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Remembering Judith Davenport

April 24, 2024

  • Judith Davenport and family
    Judith Davenport (center) was honored with a Mizzou Alumni Association Faculty-Alumni Award in 1995. She is pictured with her husband and research collaborator, Joe (right). Photo courtesy of Davenport family.

Judith Davenport, former director of the MU School of Social Work, passed away earlier this year. Dr. Davenport spent 18 years at Mizzou, including eight years as the school’s director. She is remembered warmly by current and former faculty members.

“As a social worker, Judi embodied compassion and empathy,” said Mansoo Yu, professor of social work and public health. “She had a genuine commitment to helping others and advocating for social justice. Her dedication to the social work profession was evident in her tireless efforts to create positive change in the community.”

Dianne Orton was hired by Davenport in 1989 to direct the school’s field education program. Together, Davenport and Orton led numerous educational tours around the globe.

“Judi was passionate about social work in a lot of different settings, from the rural farm crisis to Indian reservations,” said Orton, who retired in 2012 as an assistant clinical professor. “She did extensive research on her own and in conjunction with her husband, Joe, and presented all over the world.”

Davenport is remembered not only for her passion for the profession but also as a dedicated leader who strengthened the School of Social Work for the future.

Yu describes Davenport as an inspirational leader who empowered individuals around her. “Her ability to effectively communicate goals contributed to her success in leading the School of Social Work toward shared objectives,” Yu said.

Those successes included securing funding for new positions, building the school’s faculty base, and increasing private gifts to the school, Orton said.

“Judi was always generous with her time, nurturing and mentoring faculty,” Orton said. “I never saw her lose her temper or be negative. She was always a team player, always upbeat and positive.”

Davenport’s leadership and contributions to the social work profession have left a lasting legacy, Yu said. “Her dedication to advancing social work and advocating for marginalized populations with mental health issues stand out. She played a pivotal role in shaping programs aimed at improving the lives of individuals, particularly in the areas of mental health awareness, community development, and social justice.”

Davenport and her husband, Joe, established multiple scholarships at Mizzou, including the Dr. Judith A. Davenport Millennium Scholarship in the School of Social Work for students with an interest in mental health, the Judith and Joseph Davenport Scholarship in Rural Social Work, and the Jennifer Davenport Undergraduate Scholarship in Social Work for students with financial need. They also funded the renovation of 737 Clark Hall, which is named the Judith and Joseph Davenport Conference Classroom.

The family requests that memorial gifts be directed to the Judith Davenport Millennium Scholarship in Social Work.

Give to the Judith Davenport Millenium Scholarship Fund

Family obituary

Judith Davenport
Judith Davenport. Photo courtesy of the Davenport family.

Dr. Judith Ann Davenport, 79, died at Orchard Pointe Care Center in Phoenix on Jan. 29, 2024. She was the wife of Dr. Joseph Davenport, Ill. She is survived by him, a daughter, Jennifer Ann Schroeder, a son-in-law, David Schroeder, and four grandchildren, Blake and Ray of Columbia, Missouri, and Brooke and Heidi of Phoenix.

She was predeceased by her parents, Reverend Thomas B. Reaves and Jessie Roberts Reaves of Wiggins, MS and her brother, Dr. Charles Reaves, of Charlotte, N.C.

Judith received her B.A. from Mississippi State University, MSSW from the University of Tennessee, and PhD from the University of Wyoming. She was a member of Phi Kappa Phi academic fraternity and Phi Alpha social work society.
Her long and distinguished academic career included instructor, University of Montana; Assistant Professor and Director, Family Health Counseling Center, Mississippi State University; Associate Professor and Director, Department of Social Work, University of Wyoming; Associate Professor and Director, Department of Social Work, University of Georgia; and Professor and Director, School of Social Work, University of Missouri.

At Mizzou, she initiated planning for a PhD program, began several off-campus programs, and dramatically increased the number of endowed scholarships. She and her husband endowed three scholarships at Mizzou. They also endowed the Reaves-Davenport Scholarship at Mississippi State to honor their parents.

A prolific scholar, Judi collaborated with Joe on several books, over 100 journal articles and book chapters, and over 150 presentations at state, national, and international conferences. Her work took her to 46 states, several Canadian provinces, and 25 countries, including Russia, Egypt, Australia, India, England, Cuba, and South Africa. She was a visiting professor in Thailand and Taiwan. Her research was cited by authorities all over the world.

Judi’s many honors included the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Rural Social Work Caucus, which she shared with Joe, and the Victor Howery award for rural mental health, which she shared with the first lady, Roslyn Carter. She was social worker of the year in Wyoming, Georgia, and twice in Missouri.

Judi had a zest for life and rarely met someone who did not become a friend. She enjoyed sewing, knitting, quilting, cooking (especially pies) and sports (especially Mississippi State). She and Joe loved music and went to many concerts, including Johnny Cash, George Jones, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones.

Earth will be diminished by her absence, but heaven will get a big boost. She will be missed by many but none more than Joe. Memorials may be sent to the Judith Davenport Millennium Scholarship in Social Work at the University of Missouri.