Terry Davis insists there is a reason that “student” is the first part of student-athlete. Only a tiny fraction of Southwestern College athletes are going to make a living as professional athletes, he said, but 100 percent have potential they can develop in community college.
Davis is a community college product. A St. Louis native, Davis said when he was 10 years old friends started to call him “the professor” because he was always trying to teach them something.
“I always have a passion for giving,” he said. “I believe the more you give, the more you get back.”
At 18, Davis joined the U.S. Navy to see the world, he said, but did not see much more than San Diego where he served as a hospital corpsman. He worked in surgery for four years and stayed in San Diego after being honorably discharged. Davis said he still likes St. Louis, but he loves San Diego.
“Most sailors sailed the world, but I had an opportunity to sail into San Diego and make it my home,” he said.
While in the Navy, Davis attended three community colleges and earned an associates degree in general education from Mesa College. In 1986 he graduated with a BA from SDSU. He earned an MS in health administration at Chapman University in 1989.
His career at Southwestern College began 27 years ago in the surgical technology program that he helped to design. He was a teacher, a coach and served as president of the SWC African-American Alliance. He became dean of the School of Health, Exercise Science, Athletics and Applied Technology in 2005.
Davis said he is the administrator for five departments, including exercise science, health, administration of justice, applied technologies and computer information systems. He is also the athletic director.
“It is not uncommon in California to play the role of dean and athletic director due to limited manpower resources,” he said. “I enjoy the challenges of both areas.”
Davis said his pride and joy is the new athletic field house next to the stadium scheduled for completion this summer. The four-story building will house a weight room, lockers, a laundry area, training area, classrooms, tutoring rooms and a 150-seat theater for small recitals and guest lectures. Head football coach Ed Carberry said the stadium will be Davis’ crowning achievement.
“They’re going to look back and see that he oversaw the total development of the sports complex and everything that relates to students using all of the facilities,” said Carberry. “When we build those pools out there it’s going to be a community magnet.”
At SWC there are seven fields, four grass and three turf. Although much of the SWC community opposes turf due to its danger to athletes, Davis defends it.
“Grass with too much use becomes dirt,” he said. “Others in the community have asked to practice on our fields and SWC has had to say no because of the wear and tear on the grass fields. Going to turf reduces water and labor costs by about 40 percent each. Turf has provided community access to use our fields. The baseball field, softball and track will remain grass.”
He said his dream to improve academics for SWC’s athletes has already come true.
“Our students are on task and focused,” said Davis. “We have such different requirements than the regular students here for athletics because we are under the NCAA rules that most people don’t understand. Our athletes must maintain 12 units each semester. Every Monday each athlete is checked to make sure they are still enrolled in 12 units. Nine of those units have to be toward graduation, transfer or certification. Because of that there is greater opportunity to transfer. That is good news for SWC.”
Gary Creason, professor of criminal justice, works in Davis’ school.
“I’ve known Terry Davis many, many years,” said Creason. “I can tell him anything and he listens and he returns. We can say anything to each other and in the end, we get the job done, no matter what.”
Davis said Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Cesar Chavez inspire him.
“All three men sacrificed, which helps you be successful,” he said. “When you go to college you sacrifice. What you’re doing today is not what you will be doing in 10 years. If you hang in there it will be worth it.”
Davis said he plans to retire before 2020. He said he would like to teach health or management, but also has a soft spot for the national pastime.
“I love baseball and I really want to be an usher at baseball games,” said Davis. “I love to see people happy and I have to be doing something that is helping people. I would love to work at Petco Park or Starlight Theatre. I can’t get bored. I have to do multiple things at the same time. For me it works.”