Robert L. Avinger, Jr. ’60

Robert Livingston Avinger, Jr. died on June 23, 2021 of advanced dementia. Born on April 26, 1938 to Frances Haltiwanger and Robert Livingston Avinger, Sr., Bob grew up in Columbia, South Carolina in a happy neighborhood filled with family and life-long friends.

Bob was an Eagle Scout and graduated from Dreher High School in 1956, where he was a proud member of the 1956 State Championship basketball team. Bob attended Davidson College and thrived academically, socially, and athletically. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, was president of Beta Theta Pi, and played on Dr. Tom Scott’s golf team. Bob developed a deep love for Davidson College and his network of college friends remained incredibly important to him. After graduating from Davidson in 1960, Bob served for two years as a lieutenant in the United States Army. Bob then earned his PhD in Economics from Duke University.

Returning to Davidson College in 1967, Bob taught Economics and served as the Dean of the Center for Special Studies. He received the first ODK Award given by students for outstanding teaching. His relationships with his students were deep and influential; he remained closely connected to former students throughout his life. That influence continues today through the Avinger Impact Fund – providing annual grants awarded through the Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Davidson College to current students to support the development of business start-up ideas. Indicative of Bob’s influence, the fund was established by his former students.     

In 1980, Bob left Davidson College and joined his friend Olin Nisbet at Sterling Capital Management, an investment advisory firm in Charlotte, North Carolina. After retiring from Sterling in 1998, Bob continued to pursue his passion for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Bob and Jane McRae Jackson married in 1962. For over fifty years, they have lived in and served the Davidson community. Bob was a devoted member of Davidson College Presbyterian Church, where he was an Elder. Together, Jane and Bob received the Algernon Sidney Sullivan Award for service to the community – and most notably for their leadership in developing the Pines Retirement Community. Bob served on the Board of Trustees at Davidson College and on the Board of the Union Seminary.

Through the years, the family spent summers at Pawleys Island, South Carolina. While at Pawleys, Bob shared his love for sailing, flounder fishing, and spending time in the creek. Their home at Pawleys, “Lagniappe,” was a joyful haven for friends and family. Bob adored music and reading. He entertained many with his mean jazz piano playing and was a founding member of the Davidson Book Club.

Bob is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jane Jackson Avinger of Davidson, his children Mary Charles Avinger Montgomery, Asheville, and Robert Livingston Avinger, III (Jane Price), Nashville. Bob was affectionately called “Grandbobby” by his six grandchildren: Findley Dean Montgomery, Catherine Stuart Montgomery, Whitney Harris Montgomery, Jr., Anna McNair Avinger, Robert Baker Avinger, and Caroline Coker Avinger.

His brothers and sisters-in law and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins from the Avinger, Haltiwanger, Jackson, and Rivers families were all important to him.

The family is profoundly grateful to the many loving and compassionate caregivers both at home and at the Pines Health Center and is especially grateful for Eddy Beam. 

A worship service in celebration of Bob’s life will be held at 2:00 pm on Sunday, June 27, in the Lilly Family Gallery in the Chambers Building on the campus of Davidson College. A reception will follow. Unvaccinated attendees are requested to please wear a mask.     

The service will be live-streamed on the Davidson College Presbyterian Church Facebook page. A video will be made available in the days following the service.

There will be a visitation at the Avinger home on Saturday, June 26 from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm.

In lieu of flowers, memorials gifts can be made to the Avinger Impact Fund at Davidson College or to The Pines at Davidson. 

Avinger Impact Fund
Davidson College 
Box 7170
Davidson NC 28035-7170

The Pines at Davidson
400 Avinger Lane
Davidson, NC. 28036

Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr. ’47

Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr. '47

Charles Edward Ratliff, Jr., 94, died March 17, 2021.

He was born October 13, 1926 in Morven, NC to Charles Edward Ratliff, Sr. and Mary Katherine Ratliff.

The son of a cotton farmer, he graduated from Davidson College in 1947 and earned his PhD from Duke University.   He served as an Aviation Supply Officer in the US Navy from 1944-46.  

One of the longest-tenured members of the Davidson College faculty, he taught Economics, spanning six decades, from 1947 until his retirement in 1992.  He devoted his life to teaching and serving others, for four years in the 1960s, he served as an educational missionary at Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan. 

Seeing the abject poverty in Pakistan led him to his involvement in many non-profit organizations including:  Habitat for Humanity, CROP, the Davidson Housing Coalition, Bread for the World, Mecklenburg Ministries, and Rural Advancement/National Sharecroppers Fund. 

He was very active in the Davidson United Methodist Church serving on numerous conference boards.

Following retirement, he and wife Mary Virginia moved to Florida Presbyterian Homes in Lakeland Florida, joining many of their close friends from their days in Pakistan.

He was preceded in death by his wife Mary Virginia.

Survivors include his wife Ruth Miller and his children, Alice, Kate, John and his wife Kathy, and four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be at a later date.

Memorials may be made to Davidson Housing Coalition or the Ratliff Endowment for Economics at Davidson College.

Anthony “Tony” S. Abbott, Charles A. Dana Professor of English Emeritus

Anthony S. Abbott of Davidson, NC passed away on October 3, 2020 at the age of 85.  He was in hospice care in Statesville surrounded by loved ones at his passing.

Tony will be remembered as a tremendous scholar and teacher, a talented and influential writer, a selfless volunteer to his community, a steadfast friend and a devoted husband and father. 

He received his early education at a junior boarding school, Fay School, in Massachusetts and later graduated from the Kent School in Connecticut.  A 1957 graduate of Princeton, where he majored in English, he went on to receive his Ph.D from Harvard and then taught for two years at Bates College.

In 1964, he moved–along with his wife Susan–to Davidson College to teach modern drama and American Literature.  He taught there for 37 years, serving as chair of the English department for seven of them.  During that time he became a truly beloved teacher and was granted some of the college’s highest awards, including the Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award and the Thomas Jefferson Award.  He remains the Charles A. Dana Professor of English Emeritus and today the Abbott English Honors Program at Davidson is named in his honor and “welcomes and promotes original work produced by senior majors in the Department of English, work of exceptional quality and polish that makes a contribution to the field.”  

Former students describe him as “young at heart” and remember him not just as an inspirational instructor but as “the kind of professor friend many of us needed during our college years of exploration and growth” and recall fondly taking walks with him on the campus or traveling with him on college trips.

After his retirement from the college in 2001, Tony continued to teach.  He was a visiting professor at Catawba College, the writer-in-residence at Lenoir Rhyne and taught workshops at Queens University and at colleges, universities and churches throughout the state. 

For over 50 years he ran the Covenant Sunday School classes at Davidson College Presbyterian Church and regularly taught seminars on Walker Percy, Frederick Buechner, John Irving and Flannery O’Connor.  In his final years, he devoted much of his time and thought to the DavidsonLearns program, designed to promote lifelong learning for “mature” students.  He was still conducting classes via zoom two weeks before his passing.

In 2015, Tony received the North Carolina Award for Literature, the highest civilian honor given by the state, and he is slated to be inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame on October 11, 2020.  Best known as a poet, he once described himself as “poet who happened to write novels.”  

His first book of poems, The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and he went on to publish eight books of poetry, the last of which he completed this year and which will be published posthumously.  The accessibility of his work has led many readers to embrace poetry.  Said one, “Tony taps into everyday language and situations of love and loss.  He elevates the minutiae of life into universal truths, without rendering the language and images obscure and impossible to understand.”  

His first novel, Leaving Maggie Hope, won the 2003 Novello Literary Award, and was followed by a sequel, The Three Great Secret Things.   He is also the author of four books of literary criticism, two on modern drama.

As a teacher and a writer, Tony has been a bridge builder between those communities.  He has been an integral part of the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the North Carolina Poetry Society, bringing writers of all styles and genres together with readers and scholars. 

A dynamic reader, he called upon his theater experience to make his readings into performances and he loved doing readings for schools, churches, bookstores and book clubs around the country–hundreds of them over the years.

Tony was devoted to the town and the people of Davidson.  He was one of the founders of the Davidson Community Players and directed or acted in dozens of shows through the years.  He coached youth baseball teams and led church youth groups. He volunteered for the Red Cross, driving patients to their treatments and developing deep, meaningful relationships with them. 

In 2018, the town honored him with the Jack Burney Award for Community Service in recognition for his lifetime of voluntary efforts.  But perhaps his greatest service to the town was the way he connected folks to one another–“If you were friends with Tony, you had a vast network of friends you just hadn’t met yet,” said one community member.  “Tony wanted everyone he knew to be friends with everyone else he knew.”  

His love for the Davidson community was palpable and it helped the town maintain its sense of warmth and connectedness throughout his lifetime.

Above all else, he was a devoted family man.  His mother died when he was very young and he did not know his father well until later in his life.  Perhaps because of or perhaps in spite of the distance from his parents, he was wholly committed to building and raising a connected family. He met Susan Dudley when they worked together at a ranch in Wyoming.  They were married in 1960 and celebrated their 60th anniversary together a month before his passing. 

Together, they had four children–David (who married Donna Stancil Abbott), Stephen (Katy Smith Abbott), Andrew (Katie Weiss Abbott) and Carolyn, who passed away at age four–and seven grandchildren: Robert, James, Elliott, Josie, Clara, Henry and John. 

Tony and Susan loved hosting the extended family at their lake home, traveling with them, and playing long, competitive games of cards or Boggle or Rummikub.  Tony often recited poetry to them before meals or at family occasions. 

He will be buried beside Carolyn in the family plot in Davidson.  He still describes her death as his most life-changing event, and she remained central to his life as the muse for his poetry.

A service to honor Dr. Anthony S. Abbott will take place at 2:00 on October 17 at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.  Because of the COVID crisis only family will be permitted in the sanctuary, but the service will be available via livestream, and the link will be available on the church website and distributed closer to the date.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Abbott Honors Program in English, Davidson College, Box 7170, Davidson NC 28035-7170; to the Davidson Community Players, PO Box 76, Davidson, NC 28036; or to the charity of your choice.

A service will be held for family only on October 17 at 2:00 pm. The service will also be livestreamed. Click here for the service Saturday at 2:00 pm. The Abbott family is under the care of Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home & Cremation Services. 

Online condolences and memories may be shared at

Tony’s family is deeply interested in remembrances of his life.  If you have stories or reflections that you would like to share, please email them to his son Stephen Abbott at so that they can be included in Tony’s service or distributed to the family, as appropriate.

Professor of Biology Patricia Ann Peroni

​Patricia Ann Peroni, beloved professor and mentor, avid cyclist and hiker, enthusiastic kayaker, skilled knitter, and great friend to many died on December 24, 2019, of lung cancer.  

Pat was born on December 22, 1956, in Saranac Lake, NY to George and Frances Peroni.  Both her parents were WWII veterans and taught at Paul Smith’s College in Saranac Lake in forestry and culinary arts respectively.  Pat earned her BA in biology summa cum laude from SUNY Plattsburgh and a MLS from SUNY Albany.  

During her first job as a librarian at Bucknell University, she earned an MS in biology and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in botany from Duke University.  After a year at UNC Greensboro, she began teaching in the Biology Department at Davidson College in 1992, where she developed many courses in ecology, biostatistics, plant biology, environmental science, and introductory biology.  

Students especially loved her Dendrology course because it involved extensive field work opportunities to learn from trees.  She was also instrumental in developing and supporting Davidson’s Environmental Studies program.

Dr. Peroni’s research program focused on seeds and plants.  She published studies on the wildflower white campion, honeysuckle, maple trees, and ants.  Getting out into the woods to see the dynamics of the natural world delighted her.  She enthusiastically passed on her great appreciation for plants to her many students, colleagues, and friends. 

Pat particularly loved just being outdoors.  She became a proficient kayaker and was an avid hiker and cyclist.  She also kept a home in Galax, Virginia, so she could spend more time in the mountains.  She enjoyed creative craft projects and often visited the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts where she volunteered. 

Dozens of babies in and beyond Davidson have been warmed by her botanically accurate knitted hats resembling grapes, berries, lemons, tomatoes and more (complete with stems and leaves). 

Pat’s civic service focused on the Davidson Lands Conservancy, where she served two terms as a board member and mentored survey projects to identify and catalogue local plants.  She also willingly took on more mundane tasks involving the annual Run for the Green to support DLC’s work. 

Pat was predeceased by her parents and her older brother, Paul, who died at age five, and two much loved dogs, Hobo and Zoe.  She is survived by her dear brother Luke, his wife Jules, their children Colter and Whitney, as well as Pat’s adored pets, Palma and Jesse. 

A celebration in honor of Pat’s life will be held on Saturday, March 21, 2020, from 2:00-4:00 pm at Lake Campus.

Many will recall Pat as funny, innately generous, smart, witty, and forgiving.  Her laugh brightened our days.  Her courage and clarity of purpose at the end of her life is an inspiration to the many friends who banded together to help her navigate her final months. 

She is deeply mourned by family, colleagues, students, and friends. 


Richard C. “Dick” Burts, Jr. – Registrar Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Psychology

Dr. Richard C. Burts, Jr.Dr. Richard C. Burts, Dean of Students, 1961-1970; Registrar, 1970-1985; and Professor of Psychology, 1961-1985

Richard C. “Dick” Burts, Jr., of Greenville, husband of Annamarie Booz Burts, died September 10, 2017, after an extended struggle with dementia.

Born November 11, 1919, in Rock Hill, he was the son of the late Richard C. and Mamie Norris Burts.

Dick graduated from Furman University in 1940 where he was a member of the SAE fraternity and the Quaternion Club. He received both a Master’s Degree and a Doctorate in Educational Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University, where he met and married his wife.

Dick devoted his career to serving as Dean of Students at Denison College in Granville, OH, Mercer University in Macon, GA, and Davidson College in Davidson, NC.

Dick served as a Deacon in the Baptist church and later as an Elder in the Presbyterian church. He was a loyal member of the Lions Club for over 50 years where he served as club president and as District Governor. He was awarded a Lion’s life membership and was named a Melvin Jones Fellow. He and his wife were recipients of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award in recognition of their service to Davidson College and the town of Davidson, NC.

A resident of Rolling Green Village for 22 years, he assumed leadership roles as long as he was physically able to do so.

Survivors, in addition to his wife of 73 years, include his daughter Julie Cline of Simpsonville; his son Richard C. Burts, III, (Ann) of Raleigh, NC; four grand children, David M. Cline, Jr. (Chamblee) of Greenville, Wade Cline of Anderson, James R. Burts (Mitake) of Raleigh, NC, and Kathryn Jones (Jonathan) of Raleigh, NC; and eight great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his sister Eleanor Norris Burts of Bronxville, NY.

A Memorial Service will be held at Rolling Green Village on Saturday, September 16, 2017, at 3:00 PM. Dick donated his body to medical research at the Willed Body Program at the Greenville Heath System. Interment will take place at a later date.

The family is especially appreciative of the wonderful care provided by Homewell Senior Care and Lutheran Hospice.

Memorials may be sent to The Richard and Annamarie Burts Scholarship Fund at Davidson College, Davidson College Donor Relations, Box 7195, Davidson, NC 28035; to the Smith/ Smart Residents Support Endowment Fund at Rolling Green Village, Rolling Green Village, 1 Hoke Smith Boulevard, Greenville, SC 29615, ATTN: L ynn Lentz; or to a charity of your choice.

Condolences may be sent to the family at www.

Thomas McAfee Funeral Home, Southeast Chapel