Dave Dawson


...Late last month, we were saddened to read this message, posted on Facebook around 9 a.m. Pacific, Sunday, September 25:

Dave Dawson died peacefully this afternoon, surrounded by his family at home. In his death he became a statistic, but to all of us who knew him he will always remain one of a kind. What we have lost can never be replaced.


Dave Dawson's funeral service was held on Wednesday, October 12, 2011. Here is a post on his Facebook page:

David L Dawson

Just a reminder, as we approach the Dundee service on Wednesday, that Dad did not want people spending money on flowers. He preferred any memorials to be made in the form of donations to his chosen charity, Fresh Start. And many, many, many thanks to all of you who have paid or intend to pay tribute in any way. xx

Click here to donate to Fresh Start.

Dave's Facebook page is full of tributes from colleagues, students, family and friends.  Here are just a couple of them:

Eulogy by Professor Sue Black

Anatomists can be surreal – so I would like to invite you to eavesdrop on a typical Dave Dawson : Sue Black conversation. Dave decides that following his death he will bequeath his body to Dundee and that I must promise to accept him irrespective of the cost and regardless of his condition at the time – he proposes then that he will eat like a hog for at least six months before the event so that he can reach at least 25 stone and that would serve me right. We muse that anatomy should be awarded a medal as the most environmentally friendly, economically efficient and green department in the University because we have the ability to recycle something that no other department can – our staff! Then he makes me promise to undertake his embalming personally because he doesn’t think that Professors do any real work and anyway I could certainly do with the practice. He gets infuriated with eulogies that never capture the person everyone knew and laughs at how miraculously everyone becomes a saint when they die – says he can’t wait to become Saint David of the sharp scalpel. So I guarantee that if I ever have to talk about him after he has died I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God and everyone else who is within earshot.
 At the time you laugh – never really expecting that you will have to follow through one day. So Dave – I made you a promise and here we go. Dave Dawson was the most irascible, carnaptious, infuriating and exasperating man I have ever known. He had a heart of gold and I adored him. He could burn academic bridges quicker than any crack Marine team could ever hope to reconstruct them. I would beg him to think long and hard before he hit that darned ‘send’ key when one of his infamous email tirades would wend its unsuspecting merry way to a Dean, a Head of College, the Principal or frankly anyone who had hacked him off that day. Then I would sit quietly in my bunker with my Kevlar jacket fastened to the neck, my gas mask on and wait for the noxious mushroom cloud that would inevitably descend as fallout.
 Why did he do this – well you know that was the truly infuriating thing – he did it because he cared. Did he care about the University? Well in an honest moment, no not really. Did he care about the College – only in so far as it wasn’t the Medical School, because he really didn’t like them. Did he care about the department – most certainly. Did he care about the staff in Anatomy – definitely. Did he care about the subject of anatomy – passionately. Did he care about his students – to the very core of his heart. Dave Dawson’s commitment for which he will always be remembered, was to his students, his subject, his staff and his department and always in that order.
 Born in Denver, Colorado in September of 1942, he was the son of a preacher – don’t you feel a song coming on? - and he met his girl Alice Hendrich in a grocery store where he was working at the time. They married in 1963 and remained together for 48 years having three children - Patrick, Amy and Julie and three grandchildren William, Sam and Anna. He received his Batchelor’s degree from Adams State College, Colorado and his Masters and Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University, majoring in Zoology but with a teaching assistantship in human anatomy. His first true teaching position was at the University of South Dakota where he was also made Chair of the Science and Maths department. In 1975, he moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where he helped to establish a medical school and in 1986 he self-designed a position at Iowa Methodist Medical Centre in Des Moines, where he taught post-doctoral clinical anatomy.
Now somehow I don’t think he ever really left Iowa in his heart. I can remember on many occasions, walking into his office, battling through the hillbilly blue grass that warbled inexorably from his speakers and trying to distract his attention from the corn cam that he was watching. Ladies and gentlemen, if you think watching paint dry is dull, try watching corn grow in Iowa – in real time. He would log onto the Iowa state corn cam. I ask you!
 He moved to Dundee University in 1992 and I asked him why but I was never quite sure if the answer he gave was an honest one. He said that he thought he had applied for a job in Dundee, Australia and was more than a little shocked when he got the airline tickets to find it was Dundee, Scotland. But he clearly liked it well enough and bought his home down in Port William in Dumfries and Galloway where he and Alice retired in 2007.
 Dave spent 15 years at the University of Dundee which was the longest single employment of his entire career and he was buried exactly four years to the day from his date of retirement from the University of Dundee – far far too short a time. But he didn’t retire of course he remained very active, serving as a visiting professor at Durham Medical School at Stockton-on-Tees; St.George's University on Grenada; St. George's programme at Northumbria University in Newcastle and at King Saud University in Riyadh.
 In 1993 he and Carol Scott-Conner published a very important and highly respected text ‘Operative Anatomy’ which went to a second edition in 2003 and a third in 2008. Dave told me last month that when he got back onto his feet they were going to start the fourth edition and Carol confirms that she will go ahead as a tribute to her co-author but it will not be the same working without him. Dave worked to the end – he has a 2011 paper published in Clinical Anatomy and the editor tells me that there is another that is currently in the process and it will be published along with a tribute to his life in the next edition.
 I spoke with him by email a few days before he died and to the end he thought about others. He decided, with the clinical detachment of an anatomist that because of his cancer, his body cavities would prove to be of limited value for dissection purposes and so perhaps it was best if he withdrew from our bequeathal list. He was also concerned that maybe there were still too many people in Dundee who might remember him fondly and he didn’t want to cause distress and I think from the crowd gathered here today you will agree that he was right – we do still care. The outpouring of gratitude from his students was palpable and he was able to read those on Facebook which I know brought him tremendous comfort. That was the only reward and recognition that mattered to Dave, to make a difference to someone who needed help but who also desperately just needed a break. He set up the Dawson fund within our Centre, an annual gift awarded to the science student who needed most help and who evidenced, in his own words, ‘a fire in their belly’ for anatomy. He was passionate about the scientific role of his subject and singularly committed to the support of his students. . . .
. . . Dave Dawson - a force of nature, an irreplaceable and irrepressible character, a gifted and caring teacher, a professional anatomist and a friend. He and his family have asked that there be a collection to support Fresh Start, a charity that addresses homelessness, and on behalf of Dave, Alice and their family I  shamelessly ask you to give with obscene generosity, just as he did for every day of his entire life.
Praise of a Man by Norman MacCaig
He went through a company like a lamplighter -
see the dull minds, one after another,
begin to glow, to shed
A beneficent light.
 He went through a company like
a knifegrinder - see the dull minds
scattering sparks of themselves,
becoming razory, becoming useful.
He went through a company
as himself. But now he's one
of the multitudinous company of the dead
where are no individuals.
 The beneficent lights dim
but don't vanish. The razory edges
dull, but still cut. He's gone: but you can see
his tracks still, in the snow of the world.
Alice and Dave chose this poem to be read at Dave’s funeral. His former student and good friend Tommy Johnston read it at both his funeral and his memorial service in Dundee