Show, David Lawrence (1947–2002)

By Sabrina Riley


Sabrina Riley was born in Auburn, New York and raised in Dowagiac, Michigan. She received a B.A. in history from Andrews University and an M.A. in information and libraries studies from the University of Michigan. Riley was a member of Andrews University’s library staff from 1998 to 2003, library director and college archivist at Union College from 2003 to 2016, and is presently a freelance researcher, author, and information professional.


David Lawrence Show, an Adventist educator, taught physics and math at Gitwe College in Rwanda for three years before moving to Union College (Lincoln, Nebraska), where he taught physics, astronomy, and origins for 24 years.

Early Years

David Lawrence Show was born January 20, 1947, in Alton, Illinois, the younger of Harry K. Show’s and Ruth Elenor Sawyer’s (1919–2018; 1919–2004) two sons.1 The Shows were an Adventist family of several generations. Ruth Sawyer joined the church after her marriage.2 Harry K. Show held a number of positions for the Seventh-day Adventist Church throughout his career, including publishing secretary of the Malayan Union Mission, dean of men at Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University), and both business manager and instructor of business at the same college.3 Thus, David Show grew up in an Adventist community, completing his early education at Andrews University elementary school and academy. From 1988 to 2014 his brother, Richard, was a member of the medical laboratory sciences faculty at Andrews University.4

Education and Marriage

David Show attended Andrews University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1969.5 He then attended Michigan State University, where he pursued graduate work in physics. Upon completing coursework for a master’s degree, Show forewent a thesis and moved directly into doctoral work. He completed a Ph.D. in physics in 1974.6

On June 20, 1971, Show married Melanie Joan Grall, a nurse who also graduated from Andrews University in 1970.7 They had no children.


Following the completion of his PhD, Show accepted a call to teach math and physics at Gitwe College in Rwanda. Show, along with his wife, left the United States in early 1975, stopping in Collonges, France, for language study en route to Rwanda. At Gitwe the Shows engaged in the life of the school. In 1976 they joined The Sowers (or Ababibyi), an evangelistic music group composed of four faculty members and nine students started by Dan and Carolyn Rathbun. David Show played trumpet, and Melanie Show played piano. The group toured the Central African Union’s camp meetings for three weeks in 1977, performing before a total of nearly 15,000 people at 19 different camp meetings. Their music and preaching resulted in the conversion of 543 people.8

Returning to the United States in 1978, Show accepted a faculty position at Union College in 1978. Once again he was active in the life of the college. In 1983 Show became chair of the Division of Science and Mathematics at Union College.9 He also served as a member of Union College’s accreditation committee, which prepared a self-study for the 1990 regional accreditation visit.10

Show’s career ended prematurely when he was diagnosed with lymphoma brain tumors in February 2002. After chemotherapy he was, for four months, pronounced to be in remission. He returned to teaching in the fall of 2002, only to be diagnosed with another tumor. He chose to be treated during the weekends so that he could continue teaching his students during the week. But after only 11 months of battling cancer, David Show died on December 15, 2002.11


Show never pursued research and publication, but he was a master teacher and a leader among faculty members. Colleagues deeply admired his ability to analyze a problem, arrive at a practical solution, and clearly explain it. Some of his recommendations had a lasting impact on Union College, including the recommendation to create a class-free period once a week dedicated to faculty/staff meetings and academic convocations.12

Students respected Show for his knowledge and loved him for his evident regard for them. Show thoroughly acquainted himself with and thought deeply about issues of origin and climate change. Students found his conclusions fascinating and were encouraged to think deeply about these issues for themselves.13 Show’s student evaluations consistently received high ratings for his availability to students and sense of humor.14 As a result Show received the Zapara Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1989.15

Apart from teaching, Show led a Sabbath School class for college students.16 He also enjoyed golf and tennis and was known to join intramural sports on campus. He earned at least one golf trophy, in 1980, for lowest score.

Many of Show’s students accomplished notable careers. Leslie Lait pursued graduate education from Iowa State University and worked for NASA. Rod Sterling became a physics program manager at Hughes Aircraft Company. Two other students returned to Union College to hold leadership positions, Frankie Rose as vice president for academic affairs, and Carrie Wolfe as professor of chemistry and, from 2009 to 2018, chair of the Division of Science and Mathematics.


“Accreditation Renewed.” Mid-America Outlook, June 1990.

Cardinal. Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University, 1969.

“Get Involved: Attend Sabbath School.” Clocktower (Union College), September 8, 1983.

“Harry K. Show Appointed Assistant Business Manager.” Lake Union Herald, February 28, 1961.

Rathbun, Carolyn Roth. “Singers Tour Camp Meetings.” ARH, March 23, 1978.

———. “The Evangelistic Choir.” World Mission Report, October 1, 1980.

“Richard Show.” Andrews University. 2019. Accessed October 16, 2019.

“Ruth E. Show obituary.” South Bend Tribune, July 10, 2004. Accessed October 16, 2019.

Show, David Lawrence. “A Study of the (Proton, Deuteron) Germanium Isotopes.” Ph.D. dissertation, Michigan State University, 1974.

“Show Remembered for Devotion to Students.” Cord Magazine, Spring 2003.

“Three Receive Zapara Awards.” Mid-America Outlook, July 1989.

“To New Posts.” ARH, March 27, 1975.

“Union College.” Mid-America Outlook, October 6, 1983.


  1.  “Show Remembered for Devotion to Students,” Cord Magazine, Spring 2003, 34; “Ruth E. Show obituary,” South Bend Tribune, July 10, 2004, accessed October 16, 2019,

  2. Melanie Show to Kenna Lee Carlson, email to author, November 11, 2019.

  3. “Harry K. Show Appointed Assistant Business Manager,” Lake Union Herald, February 28, 1961, 15.

  4. “Richard Show,” Andrews University, 2019, accessed October 16, 2019,

  5. “David Lawrence Show,” Cardinal (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University, 1969), 144; “To New Posts,” ARH, March 27, 1975, 23.

  6. David Lawrence Show, “A Study of the (Proton, Deuteron) Germanium Isotopes” (Ph.D. dissertation, Michigan State University, 1974).

  7.  “To New Posts,” ARH, March 27, 1975, 23.

  8. Carolyn Roth Rathbun, “The Evangelistic Choir,” World Mission Report, October 1, 1980, 8-–10; Carolyn Roth Rathbun, “Singers Tour Camp Meetings,” ARH, March 23, 1978, 17, 18.

  9. “Union College,” Mid-America Outlook, October 6, 1983, 12.

  10. “Accreditation Renewed,” Mid-America Outlook, June 1990, 17.

  11.  “Show Remembered for Devotion to Students.”

  12. Carrie Wolfe, telephone interview by the author, November 1, 2019.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Kenna Lee Carlson, email to the author, November 11, 2019.

  15. “Three Receive Zapara Awards,” Mid-America Outlook, July 1989, 17.

  16. “Get Involved: Attend Sabbath School,” Clocktower (Union College), September 8, 1983, 3.


Riley, Sabrina. "Show, David Lawrence (1947–2002)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Accessed January 28, 2022.

Riley, Sabrina. "Show, David Lawrence (1947–2002)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 28, 2021. Date of access January 28, 2022,

Riley, Sabrina (2021, April 28). Show, David Lawrence (1947–2002). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 28, 2022,