Recognizing advertising’s importance as a social and economic force, Donald W. Davis upheld the highest ideals as a professional organization leader, a writer, a speaker on advertising and as an inspired teacher of thousands of students.
His career in advertising began on the Springfield, Mass., Republican and Daily News in 1919. By 1929 he had worked up to the position of advertising director. In those 17 years, Davis’ interests carried far beyond business into the realms of advertising advocacy and education, interests he maintained throughout his life.
He was a leader in improving advertising and explaining its role in society through professional associations. He served as president of the Springfield Advertising Club from 1930 to 1931, vice president of the Advertising Federation of America (AFA) in the 1920s, governor of the First District of AFA from 1932 to 1934 and national president of Alpha Delta Sigma from 1947 to 1949. Re-elected to the AFA board of directors for a third time in 1948, he served on its Business Education Joint Committee from 1950 to 1951. For this committee he edited the exhaustive AFA Directory of Advertising, Public Relations and Marketing Education in the United States in 1951.
His most enduring monument was his work for Alpha Delta Sigma. He is credited with revitalizing the professional advertising fraternity and expanding its scope while serving as its president for two years.
As a writer and speaker, he ably presented his philosophy on advertising to professionals and non-professionals alike. He wrote on advertising practices and ethics for many journals, but his enduring contribution as a writer is his widely used textbook, Basic Text in Advertising.
As an educator, Davis taught university courses in advertising for 37 out of the 40 years he was engaged in advertising. In 1922 he began teaching at the Springfield Division of Northeastern University. In 1922 he also accepted an invitation to establish a curriculum in advertising at Pennsylvania State University. Under his leadership, the university’s enrollment in advertising grew to be the largest in the U.S. The many thousands of students across the country who testify to his instruction and inspiration are his greatest memorial.