Lee A. Tavis, the C.R. Smith Professor Emeritus of Finance at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, died April 4 (Tuesday) in Singer Island, Florida. He was 91.
Tavis was a widely respected scholar for his life’s work in advancing civil and human rights, especially in developing countries. He joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1976 as the inaugural C.R. Smith Professor of Finance. During his 38-year career at Notre Dame, Tavis was the founding director of the Notre Dame Program on Multinational Managers and Developing Country Concerns and taught graduate and undergraduate courses in managerial finance, international financial management and international ethics.
“Lee lived his life mindful of this day when he sees God face to face,” said Carolyn Y. Woo, former Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College of Business. “He used his talent and scholarship connecting the world for a more just and ethical relationship.”
Among his numerous teaching awards, Tavis received the Notre Dame MBA Award for the outstanding teacher four times (1978, 1980, 1984 and 1990); the Executive MBA Award for the outstanding teacher in 1984; the Notre Dame Outstanding Faculty Award in 1993; the Reinhold Niebuhr Award for work in social justice in 1998; and the James E. Armstrong Award in 2014.
Tavis served in many University programs, centers and committees, including the Center on Civil and Human Rights Advisory Council and the Institute for Latino Studies Faculty Advisory Committee. Tavis also was a faculty fellow for the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Joan. B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
"Lee Tavis was passionate about advancing human rights in developing countries and he traveled far and wide in the poorest parts of the world, trying to make things better with the help of business,” said the Rev. Oliver Williams, C.S.C., associate professor of management and organization. “In many ways, he was all that we hope that a faculty member might be. He loved students and worked hard in preparing his classes and at the same time, he was a dedicated researcher publishing in all the best places. As we say about our best at Notre Dame, his blood was in the bricks."
The Bismarck, North Dakota, native earned his bachelor’s degree in business from Notre Dame in 1953. He entered the U.S. Navy and served as a pilot before returning to college to earn his MBA from Stanford University in 1960 and his doctoral degree from Indiana University in 1969.
A prolific researcher, Tavis’ work was published in numerous top academic journals and presented at conferences on globalization, multinational corporations and the moral responsibility of business across the world. He wrote six books, including “Values-based Multinational Management: Achieving Enterprise Sustainability through a Human Rights Strategy,” which was co-authored by his son, Timothy Tavis, who preceded him in death.
Tavis is survived by his wife of almost 70 years, Sparky, and their three children, Thomas Tavis, Therese Beckwith and Tami Lange, along with numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. EDT on Monday, April 10, at Kaniewski Funeral Home, 3545 N. Bendix Dr., South Bend, Indiana. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at Notre Dame at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, April 11. Burial will follow at Cedar Grove Cemetery.