In Memoriam

Leonard and Sophie Davis

PHILANTHROPIST AND INSURANCE pioneer Leonard Davis, whose gift to the University of Southern California in 1975 established the nation’s first professional school of gerontology – the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology – died of heart failure Jan. 15 at the age of 76. His wife, Sophie Davis, passed away Sept. 16, 2000, at the age of 74.
A successful business couple and longtime supporters of the arts and education, the Davises left many legacies. They led the Colonial Penn Group of insurance companies, gave to various Jewish philanthropic causes including the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., supported the biomedical education program at the City College of New York, established the Regional Arts Foundation in Florida, were credited as a driving force behind the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and established the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Under the Davises, Colonial Penn became the first insurance company to provide coverage for senior citizens, who could not easily obtain life, health or automobile insurance. In 1958, Leonard Davis founded the American Association of Retired Persons with Ethel Percy Andrus, head of the National Retired Teachers Association., and, after Andrus’ death in 1968, spearheaded the effort to establish USC’s Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center. The AARP’s membership today numbers more than 33 million.
“The most significant contribution of Dr. Andrus was to change the perception of aging in America by the aging themselves, and in the way they were regarded by others,” Davis said in an interview some time before his death. “And the school has done an outstanding service . . . by producing well-educated graduates who have successful careers in the field of aging.”
“Leonard Davis made an extraordinary difference in the lives of older adults,” said Edward L. Schneider, dean of the School of Gerontology. “His loss is immeasurable, and he will be deeply missed.”

LEONARD DAVIS AND Sophie Davis have each bequeathed $2 million to the school. The gifts will go to support student scholarships and other projects of the school which has borne Leonard Davis’s name.
“The Davises’ generous bequests will further the school’s position as a leader in the field of gerontology,” said Schneider. The USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in gerontology, as well as a graduate level certificate.
The Davises are survived by their two sons, Alan and Michael, and four grandchildren.


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