Campus News

Equal Opportunity director retires after more than three decades

Len Davis’ primary official job at UGA for the past 28 years has been directing the Equal Opportunity Office.

But that job doesn’t begin to cover all the tasks Davis has performed here for more than three decades—a list that includes everything from helping run the Cooperative Extension, providing legal advice to four university presidents, managing a job placement service for the University System and helping start the UGA equestrian team.

And though he retired March 31, Davis won’t stray far from the campus where he’s been a fixture for 34 years. He’ll be working part time for a few months during a transition period for the EOO. And he’ll continue to serve his alma mater as an ambassador, fundraiser and supporter.

“Len Davis has provided more than 30 years of exemplary service in a highly sensitive area,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “He has shown great ability and care in addressing the needs of the university and countless employees. We are truly indebted to him for his dedication.”

Davis, who earned a journalism degree from UGA in 1966 and a law degree in 1974, officially has been EOO director since 1986, and unofficially for several years previously. But it was not a job he sought—or wanted.

He was working with the university’s Cooperative Extension in 1980 when then-President Fred Davison, in need of legal assistance, brought him into the president’s office “on loan” to help deal with two long-running legal matters involving federal government agencies.

After helping close those cases, Davis stayed on as an informal legal adviser to Davison at a time when the university did not have a legal affairs office.

One of the assignments Davison gave him was to help the unit then known as Equal Employment Opportunity-Affirmative Action through some organizational and staffing problems, which led to his eventual appointment as director.

In his early years at EOO, Davis oversaw the university’s compliance with civil rights laws, helped create a university affirmative action plan and started and oversaw the institutional grievance process. For at least 15 years, he was chair of the president’s committee that rules on institutional appeals related to eligibility for in-state tuition and represented the university before the board of regents in appeals from such decisions.

Following Davison’s departure, Davis continued on the staffs of interim President Henry King Stanford and Presidents Charles B. Knapp and Adams.

He has helped represent UGA in legal matters involving many federal and state agencies, assisted the Georgia attorney general’s office in legal matters involving the university and served as a university liaison with the state’s congressional delegation and the Georgia legislature.

His legal counsel has covered issues ranging from academic freedom and technology transfer to tenure revocations. He helped negotiate real estate transfers and leases on several university properties including 4-H camps at Tybee and Jekyll islands, and he was a leader in helping agricultural associations at land-grant universities obtain tax-exempt status.

In 1983, Davis took on additional assignment as director of the University System of Georgia Applicant Clearinghouse, a database of vacant faculty and administrative positions at the 34 system colleges and universities. Thousands of people have been placed in jobs through the clearinghouse, which typically processes more than 1,500 positions annually and receives acknowledgments from some 200 new employees each year that they have found jobs.

Another task Davison assigned Davis was coordinating UGA’s equine programs. Davis helped the equestrian team get started using borrowed and donated horses and equipment. Competing against private equestrian clubs, the team finished its first season ranked seventh nationally, prompting Davison to donate his personal horse to the club.

Reflecting on his long service to the university, much of which has been behind-the-scenes and out of the public eye, Davis said, “I graduated from law school on one day and started to work for the university the next. After 28 years with the office of the president, I call myself ‘the unknown soldier in the war on ignorance’ because when I win my case, no one ever hears about it.”