Dr. Earl W. Davie, a renowned biochemistry professor and scientist from Eatonville and donor to the annual Eatonville High School Honor Cup award, passed away June 7.
Davie is heralded by the scientific community for his contributions in better understanding blood clotting disorders and founding one of the first U.S. biotech companies, ZymoGenetics, which created medications for hemophilia and diabetes and produced other biopharmaceutical products before being sold in 2019.
Despite his business and academic success outside Eatonville, Davie remained involved in his hometown. Through guest lectures and personally funded grants, he has encouraged EHS students to become involved in science and medicine.
“Twenty-one years ago, he started coming to the high school, and he got this idea to give $5,000 to the winner of the Honor Cup,” said Thalia Hull, EHS counselor and director of the Honor Cup program.
The Honor Cup program has long been considered the most prestigious award EHS seniors can receive, but it had not included grant money until Davie’s contribution. The program recognizes one senior each year with an award for leadership, community service, scholarship, citizenship and school spirit.
Hull said Davie and his two siblings had received the Honor Cup award in their respective senior years at EHS decades ago. She said he had contributed the money in tribute to his parents and his siblings. Knowing his parents, Hull also attributed his success and generosity to their support and strong values passed down to him.
“What those of us who were privileged to become acquainted with him will remember most are his humble spirit, kindness, humor and generosity,” Hull wrote in a letter.
She said Davie is an example of someone who made good decisions, was good hearted and hard working. He loved what he did, worked seven days a week and always remained in contact with loved ones and those who needed advice, she said.
“When anyone asked what his profession was, he would say ‘I am a teacher’ because he loved sharing knowledge,” Hull said.
EHS anatomy and physiology teacher Dr. Tira Hancock wrote in an email that Davie loved sharing his story of success with students as a way to encourage them to live their dreams.
“He believed in others wholeheartedly and supported others…” Hancock wrote. “He truly believed that helping others and community is a key to living a fulfilled life.”
In addition to Davie’s contributions to the high school, Hull said that, because of his academic and business career efforts, “millions of people” have benefited and their lives have been saved.
In 1964, Davie discovered the “Waterfall Sequence” in blood clotting protein chemistry, which has saved people affected by atrial fibrillation, hemophilia and other blood clotting disorders. He had sequenced the enzymes responsible for blood clotting, which expanded science’s knowledge on how clotting processes work. Through new genetic technologies, Davie’s continued work led to scientists' ability to clone coagulation factors instead of depending on possibly tainted plasma donations for patients with blood disorders.
Davie graduated from EHS in 1945 and went on to earn a doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Washington. After graduation, Davie completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, worked for Case Western University for a short time and was hired in 1962 by UW’s biochemistry department. By 1974. Davie became chair of the biochemistry department and for a time served as an adviser on the medical exam board.
Davie was a member of The National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and American Academy of the Arts and Sciences. He received numerous awards and honors through his career. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, conducts an annual Earl W. Davie Symposium in honor of his work.
When not teaching, chatting with others about how he could help, or conducting research, Davie was an avid fisherman, gardener and outdoorsman, Hull said. His work never ended until the day he died, she added.
“He got a little frailer as he got older, but he never lost the twinkle in his eye,” she said.
Before Davie passed away, he requested that in lieu of flowers, money be donated to Eatonville Dollars for Scholars and designated to the “Honor Cup, In Memory of Earl Davie.”
“Dr. Davie was a very kind and humble man,” Hancock wrote. “He is a wonderful man that will be deeply missed.”