A large crowd gathered in the South City Campus atrium Thursday to celebrate the life and legacy of assistant film professor Mark Davis.
The memorial was hosted by the SLCC Flix film club, in partnership with the Student Health Advisory Committee and the Screenwriters Club. Davis passed away March 12 from injuries sustained in a rock climbing accident.
“He was buried in Georgia, so we needed something for the people here [in Salt Lake],” says Joey Gregg, SLCC Flix co-president and a former student of Davis. “Not only for film students and faculty, but for all the friends he made here.”
His impact on Salt Lake Community College students and faculty was substantial; reinforced through the countless tributes paid by the attendees of the event. Within the large crowd, one could hear multiple conversations of individuals telling their own “Mark Davis” stories.
“We were close in age, so we shared a lot of our film references,” Gregg says. “I went into his class thinking I knew everything, but I ended up learning so much more from him.”
Industry professionals were also on hand to pay their respects.
“He did his job and he was super professional, but at the same time you could have fun doing it,” says Cate Allen, professional actress and radio host. “He had certain phrases he would say that would stick out in my mind; he would say ‘Cate, I dig your style’ … he just had a way of being positive and happy, joking about stuff, but would still get things done.”
Tributes included a piano recital by music faculty and a showcase of short films that Davis was involved in. His students also created on-screen tributes which were edited by fellow film professor and good friend, Channing Lowe.
“In coordinating this event it became evident of the ripple effect Mark had on this college,” says Tamara Brune-Wharton, event coordinator and SLCC Flix co-president. “People came forward in droves to volunteer for this event, because they were so touched by Mark. There were too many to thank individually. One volunteer even went so far as to bake Mark’s favorite muffins for everyone.”
As much as this event was a celebration of Davis and his influence on the film program at SLCC, it was also meant to reassure students about the future of the film program. Davis was such a strong presence and replacing him would seem to be a daunting task.
Before addressing this, Associate Dean Nick Burns led the crowd in a mass “fist bump” — a standard salutation used by the charismatic Davis with his students.
“Going forward, Mark will be replaced but not be forgotten. We’ll find a professor to teach film and other good people to do good things, to be engaged, help you learn, and help you with your career,” Burns says. “That doesn’t take away from what Mark had to offer while he was here, which was this amazing, vibrant personality.”
With his passion for film and teaching, Davis laid a solid foundation that will make the transition smoother for whomever steps in to fill the vacant position he left. The hard part will be winning over the students he left behind, assuming that his stubborn commitment to perfection has rubbed off on them.
“Remember that passion in whatever you do,” Burns says. “Your music class, cinematography class, English class … remember that passion; that one hundred percent — because that’s what Mark would want you to do.”
Donations are being accepted in lieu of flowers for a scholarship established in his honor by the Davis family.
Photos by Matt Merkel