One of the greatest bass players in the world, Davis came to the UW-Madison from New York City in 1977. He's worked with Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Van Morrison and John Lennon, and been on the receiving end of batons wielded by Igor Stravinsky, Gunther Schuller and Leonard Bernstein, among others. He's played all around the world; we'll spare you a list.
But what makes Davis truly extraordinary is his commitment to his community. In 1993, he founded the Richard Davis Foundation for Young Bassists, which pairs young bassists with some of the world's best instructors. In 2000, he launched the Retention Action Project, for black faculty. Most recently, he's been involved with a campus group called Students for the Oneness of Humankind.
"Madison thinks it's a liberal city," he once told Isthmus. "I don't see that. That's why we're still talking about these issues." Ideally, with some jazz playing in the background.