It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Prof. David Travis on the 21st of November, 2013. As former Director of the academic program at NYU in Florence, Dr. Travis presided over a decade that may well be remembered as something of a “Golden Age” for the visual arts program at one of our oldest and most established study abroad sites. He will long be remembered by many of his art history faculty colleagues here on Washington Square as someone who, in his own understated fashion, proved himself to be as committed to our student community and to the fostering of a spirit of collegiality among the Florence faculty as he was to his own scholarship on contemporary Italian and European history.
Prof. Travis had taught at the university level since the mid-1980s, beginning as an assistant professor in the History Department at the University of Washington. Following his time in Seattle, he became involved in administration and instruction at two of the best-known American-based academic institutions in Florence. This involvement was to last almost a quarter of a century. Earning his start at Syracuse in Florence as an instructor, he was in time appointed as the program’s Coordinator of the Humanities Department. Prof. Travis’s eventual departure from Syracuse in Florence was our students’ gain, as he became a permanent faculty member at NYU-Florence in 2000. He went on to serve for ten years as the Director of the academic program. In his position, Prof. Travis assumed overall responsibility for all aspects of the academic program, cultural immersion, student life and well-being, supervision of the administrative staff and the management of the teaching facilities and its physical plant – no small task, given the site’s idyllic 57-acre estate in the city’s northern hills. On Prof. Travis’s watch, NYU’s academic program grew from 160 students (when he first became Director) to peak enrollments of 420 per semester. In these same years, while working closely with home campus academic departments, he organized several new projects within the academic program, including the specialized concentrations in business, music performance, and community learning. He was certainly also a committed friend to art history and studio art throughout his tenure. While Director, Prof. Travis never failed to indulge his love for teaching, offering one course per semester. Following his decade-long stewardship of our Florence site, he continued to teach courses in Italian history, Europe since 1945 and European Fascism in the role of associate professor.
Prof. Travis earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees in European History from the University of California at Davis, before going on to receive his Ph.D. from Cambridge University (U.K.), his thesis work supervised by Prof. Paul Ginsborg (currently at the University of Florence). He also held a two year post-doctoral Junior Research Fellowship at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University (U.K.). Prof. Travis also held a one-year Fulbright Research Fellowship for work on modern Italy. As his various publications attest, his field of specialization focused on the social and political developments in Italy in the 1940s-70s.
Our own department Chairs and individual faculty alike had the good fortune of collaborating closely with Dr. Travis on a number of initiatives. In fact, it was he who hired the majority of NYU’s current instructors still teaching at the Florence site. It is, however, not only for his administrative leadership (and his scholarship) that David will be missed. His art history colleagues here in New York will miss him, most of all, for his hospitality, his good humor and quiet grace.
Prof. Travis is survived by his wife, Stefania, and their son, Timothy.
– The Department of Art History, New York University