Islanders Henrietta and Aubrey Davis had a tremendous impact on Mercer Island and the region, and are being honored by their family with an endowed professorship in biochemistry at the University of Washington. Photo courtesy of Trisha Davis

Islanders Henrietta and Aubrey Davis had a tremendous impact on Mercer Island and the region, and are being honored by their family with an endowed professorship in biochemistry at the University of Washington. Photo courtesy of Trisha Davis

New endowment at UW to continue legacy of Islanders Aubrey, Henrietta Davis

Former Mercer Island mayor’s children honor his commitment to “knowledge, excellence and altruism.”

When the children of the late and legendary Mercer Island residents Aubrey and Henrietta Davis were looking for a way to honor their parents, they wanted to do something that would reflect their lives of service and impact not only on their town, but on the region.

Their daughter Trisha Davis, professor and chair of biochemistry at the University of Washington, came up with the winning idea: an endowment at the UW named for “Aubrietta.”

“I’ve been involved with other endowments at UW, and I’ve seen how well-managed they are and how valuable they are to the department,” Trisha Davis told the Reporter.

According to the fundraising website, “family members joined together recently to establish the Henrietta and Aubrey Davis Endowed Professorship in Biochemistry in recognition of their parents’ dedication to the pursuit of knowledge, to excellence and to altruism.”

Aubrey and Henrietta began their careers in Washington, D.C., as interns in the Roosevelt administration. There they met, married and became “Aubrietta” for the next 67 years. They lived rich lives centered on family and service to their community.

Aubrey Davis is well-known on Mercer Island as the mayor who oversaw the redesign of Interstate 90 — the “lid” park built on top of the highway was renamed after him — but he was also a business owner and health care advocate, even serving as CEO of Group Health Co-operative. Upon retirement, he stayed actively involved in local, state and national transportation issues and health policy until his death in 2013.

He also helped make King County Metro an accessible bus system, served as the regional administrator for Region 10 of the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (now the Federal Transit Administration), and formed and ran a family business, Gaco Western, Inc.

Henrietta Davis obtained her Masters of Education from UW, becoming an elementary educator who encouraged each of her students to discover and explore their interests. She placed a strong emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic, but also on more practical matters, such as how to throw a baseball. Upon her retirement from teaching, she spent 20 years volunteering first at the Pacific Science Center, the Seattle Aquarium and the Salvation Army, until she passed away in 2008.

Trisha Davis said that her parents were “very positive influences” in her life and the lives of her three siblings. They also have eight grandkids and seven great-grandkids.

She said that funding for education is a big issue for K-12 in Washington state, but that support for public institutions in higher education is important as well.

The family is inviting others to join them in building the professorship, which is currently held by David Baker. Baker’s work on protein design was recently featured in the New York Times, and Trisha Davis said that the applications of the research in healthcare, clean energy and other fields are “very exciting.”

“We talk about cutting edge research,” she said. “This is way ahead of that.”

Healthcare and transportation were her father’s passions, Trisha Davis said, but he also cared deeply about his community. He had cancer, but never let that stop him, his daughter said. His last public appearance on Mercer Island was at the Youth and Family Services annual breakfast, where he gave the keynote speech. He died days later.

Trisha Davis said that she and her siblings cherished their childhood on Mercer Island. Their parents lived there for 50 years.

“They liked the schools, and the community,” she said. “It was a wonderful place to grow up.”

See https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/Tributes for more information on the “Aubrietta” endowment.

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