Cashup Davis Family Endowed Deanship

CAHNRS is Proud to Steward an Inspirational Legacy

Gordon Davis

Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences honors and shares the values of a true Inland Northwest pioneer through a unique endowment: the Cashup Davis Family Endowed Dean.

Established in 2018 by CAHNRS alumnus Gordon Davis, the deanship supports academic and research endeavors that reflect the Davis family’s visionary, entrepreneurial spirit. Made possible by a $5 million gift from Mr. Davis, the program was the first endowed deanship at Washington State University, creating new opportunities to meet the needs of our students and adapt innovative solutions for agriculture across our state and around the globe.

The endowment helps the college’s dean build a culture of philanthropy among university alumni and partners as well as students. CAHNRS recognizes outstanding students embodying the Davis family’s values through the Cashup Davis Merit in Agricultural & Natural Resource Sciences and Cashup Davis Merit in Human Sciences Awards.

Gordon Davis: Always Pursuing Excellence

An award-winning teacher, mentor, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr. Davis has inspired students and educators at WSU, in his adopted state of Texas, and nationwide to pursue paths of excellence.

A Washington native who grew up in Deer Park, Gordon Davis earned bachelor’s degrees in agriculture science and education from WSU, where he took part in the university’s competitive livestock and meats judging teams. He went on to get his master’s and PhD in meat science from Texas A&M University. Davis was then hired at Texas Tech University as an assistant professor and coach of the meat judging team. As coach, he led their team to its first meat judging national championship in 1989, the first of the team’s 16 national titles.

In 1984, Davis created CEV Multimedia, bringing experts into high schools, originally through VHS tapes, then DVDs, and later online. Davis’ success with CEV afforded him the opportunity to give back to the meat industry as well as education. He and his wife, Joyce, have founded 15 endowments across six universities, all geared toward the advancement of agriculture.

Inducted into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame in 2023, Davis is a recipient of the Ruby C. McSwain Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the National Agricultural Alumni Development Association (NAADA), the American Meat Science Association 2020 Industry & Organizational Leadership Award, the Texas Plains Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Outstanding Philanthropist Award, Washington State University’s Distinguished Service Award, and many other national and collegiate honors.

In the classroom, the boardroom, and in the frigid walk-in coolers where he coached successful intercollegiate meats judging teams, Davis has always followed the same motto: “It’s all about the kids.”

James “Cashup” Davis: A Palouse Pioneer

three-story hotel atop 3,612-foot Steptoe Butte in 1888

The deanship is named for Dr. Davis’ great-grandfather James S. “Cashup” Davis, an enterprising English immigrant who homesteaded on the Palouse, building a now-vanished three-story hotel atop 3,612-foot Steptoe Butte in 1888.

Born in 1815 in Sussex County, England, Davis emigrated to America, putting the family craft of well-digging to prosperous use. Farming in Wisconsin and Iowa for more than 20 years, Davis felt the urge to go west, staking a claim first in Oregon, then, in 1871, in Whitman County in the Washington Territory. Living in a dugout home a hundred miles from Walla Walla, the nearest city, Davis and his family broke the tough prairie sod, planted grain and raised cattle, battling primitive conditions, the elements, and one summer, a plague of crickets.

A few years later, Davis moved a few miles north of Steptoe Butte, building a general store and inn, with a dance hall on the top floor. In the era before trains, his settlement soon became a well-known stagecoach stop, and Davis loved to play the host. Young and old gathered to step the polka and waltz to a two-man “orchestra” in dances that lasted from dusk to dawn.

David at the "cash up" counter in hotel.

Davis earned his lasting nickname as one of the few traders willing to put “cash up” on the counter. Cash was rare in the territory, and Davis earned respect and made shrewd deals thanks to his ability to offer hard money.

Long fascinated by majestic Steptoe Butte, Davis purchased land and spent $10,000, a fortune in 1888, to build his hotel, equipped with every luxury and considered a palace on the Palouse.  Davis died June 22, 1896, at age 81, at his hotel. The grand hotel has vanished, but the “Cashup” legacy remains on the Palouse: A sense of opportunity, pride, and adventure that runs through its farms, businesses, classrooms, and research endeavors.

My great-grandfather had an incredible sense of vision. While I’ve never met him, he has been a mentor to me. I’ve found success in life because of that same vision: no matter how good you are, you can always do better. Never stop aspiring to excellence.

Gordon Davis