John Davenport, St. Thomas’ longtime archivist, passed away Feb. 25 at the age of 69 from complications of diabetes following a battle with COVID-19.
Davenport was named archivist at the College of St. Thomas in 1977, launching a 24-year career at St. Thomas that saw him rise to head of the Department of Special Collections. As acting director of O’Shaughnessy Library in the early 1990s, Davenport oversaw the $8 million project that more than doubled the size of the library.
“John was the first full-time Special Collections librarian in St. Thomas’ history – essentially, he was the founder of what is now a nationally regarded program known especially for our collection of Celtic literature,” Associate Vice Provost of University Libraries Dan Gjelten said. “He also developed the Bach Dunn collection of Luxembourgiana and the collection of Catholic intellectual Christopher Dawson’s manuscripts and letters. John was both an erudite scholar and someone who thought the Godzilla movies were the pinnacle of filmmaking. He had a great sense of humor, a wonderful giggle and I really enjoyed working with him.”
Davenport joined the faculty of North Central University in Minneapolis in 2001. While there, he taught courses in American, European and church history, published several journal articles, and became department chairman before retiring in 2017.
Davenport was preceded in death by his parents and his brother James, who died in infancy. He is survived by his cousins, Sumner, Sandy, Steven and Carlton Hunt, and his many close friends. Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, March 3, at noon at The Church of St. Agnes, 548 Lafond Ave., St. Paul, with visitation starting at 11:30 a.m. A wake will be held from 4-8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 2, at Mueller-Bies Funeral Home – Roseville, 2130 N. Dale St. at County Road B. Memorials are suggested to the Davenport Family Fund at the University of North Dakota Foundation, Grand Forks, or Holy Family Catholic Adoption Agency in Crystal.