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In Memoriam: Margaret A. Davidson

May 30, 2017 | News

Margaret A. Davidson.Margaret A. Davidson, whose powerful personality and adept networking skills were integral in the early years of the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, passed away May 23 in Charleston after a long illness.

Davidson, 67, helped the Con­sortium get off the ground in 1980 and was selected as the agency’s first executive director in 1983. She held that position until 1995, when she became founding director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Coastal Services Center (CSC).

Rick DeVoe, who succeeded Davidson and is the Consortium’s current executive director, worked alongside her during the agency’s formative years.

“Margaret’s acumen in working the crowd, cutting deals, forming alliances, and speaking her mind in her own unique style is well-known,” DeVoe said. “She was also extremely caring and compassionate, a mentor for many of us in the ocean and coastal community, and deeply devoted to the education and training of young people.”

Davidson earned her doctorate of law from Louisiana State University in 1978, and served as special counsel and assistant attorney general for the Louisiana Department of Justice. She went on to earn a master’s degree in marine policy and resource economics from the University of Rhode Island before helping start the Consortium in 1980.

When CSC merged with the NOAA Office for Ocean and Coastal Resources Management, Davidson served as acting director before moving to a new role as NOAA’s senior leader for Coastal Inundation and Resilience.

“Margaret was the greatest visionary I ever had the pleasure to meet, and she was a visionary who took action,” said Russell Callender, assistant administrator of NOAA National Ocean Service. “When she spoke of ‘now,’ she meant two to three years down the road because she was always thinking that far ahead of the rest of us.”

Davidson’s work focused on climate adaptation, environmentally sustainable coastal-development practices, and the reduction of risk associated with extreme events. During her illustrious career, she was a Fulbright Fellow, Gilbert White Fellow, American Meteorological Society Fellow, and Zurich Fellow for Climate Adaptation. The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation honored her by naming its recognition for outstanding stewardship of estuaries and coasts the Margaret A. Davidson Award.

Photo of Margaret A. Davidson by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.