David Oliver

David Oliver completed his “Exit Strategy” on March 14, 2015, dying of the cancer that invaded his head and neck four years ago. He dared to share his journey with the world with the goal of taking the strangeness out of dying. He appeared with his wife Debbie live in the New York Studios on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose; was a guest on the television series The Stream on the Al Jazeera television network; was interviewed and his story published in international and American newspapers, and in regional magazines; and was a guest on numerous radio programs. He produced, with his wife Debbie, 28 YouTube teaching videos about his journey with cancer (Go to: dbocancerjourney.blogspot.com), which to-date has received more than 100,000 hits from over 74 different countries. His published eBook, Exit Strategy: Depriving Death of Its Strangeness, reminds us that no one gets out of this alive. (Go to: exitstrategy-ebook.com). He and Debbie were recently awarded the Project Death in America Community Leadership Award from the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine for their efforts in sharing this journey. Those who were inspired by his courageous teachings about the disease and his journey with it have been blessed.  David retired from the University of Missouri Department of Family and Community Medicine in September 2012. He provided leadership for the campus wide MU Interdisciplinary Center on Aging. Other university positions included developing the initial program in service excellence and customer service in all University Hospitals and Clinics, and a Distinguished Professorship in the Department of Health Management and Information.  Prior to coming to the University of Missouri in 1996, David served as Executive Vice-President for the Heartland Health System in St. Joseph, Missouri; Oubri A. Poppele Chair in Health and Welfare Studies at the Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City; Chair of the Department of Sociology and Director of the Center for Research and Training in Gerontology at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas; and Chair of the Department of Sociology at The School of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri. His PhD in Sociology with Minors in Gerontology and Anthropology from the University of Missouri was awarded in 1972; a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Omaha; and his undergraduate degree from Drury College in Springfield, Missouri, were awarded earlier. He was also a National Science Foundation Scholar and was a pre- and post-doctoral fellow in the Midwest Council for Social Research in Aging. Active in the community, David was a Rotarian and recipient of the Tom Botts Award for meritorious service, primarily for his work with Rotary Youth Exchange students. He was President of the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association; served on a committee for the Family Health Center; and helped spearhead a Council for Persons Aging with Disabilities. For nearly five years, he was a regular monthly guest on David Lile’s KFRU Columbia Morning Show. He was inducted into a secret society of distinguished alumni sponsored by the University of Missouri, and was an avid supporter of all university sports programs. He bled Black and Gold, and “Go Tigers!” was a favorite phrase. Dr. Debbie Oliver, his wife and best friend was the light of his life. Their legacy lives on in the lives of their children: Michael Oliver, Bradley Oliver, Jessica Oliver Tappana, Rebecca Schoenlaub, Christina Schoenlaub. Wives and husband were equally valued, Michelle, Carol, and Andrew. He is also a proud grandfather for five grandchildren Matt Oliver, Megan Oliver, Emily Oliver, Abbey Oliver, and Oliver Tappana. Also surviving is his brother Robert B Oliver of Tucson Arizona. Friends are invited to celebrate in the family’s pre-service rally on Saturday, March 28 from 1-5 PM at the Marriott Courtyard in Columbia, Missouri. A memorial service will be held Sunday, March 29 at 2:00 pm at the Lester Bryant Auditorium, University of Missouri Hospital. David’s request was for informal black and gold attire at all events. Memorial contributions can be sent to the David B. Oliver Geriatric and Palliative Medicine Endowment at the University of Missouri, 109 Reynolds Alumni Center, Columbia, MO 65211. An annual award is given each year to a faculty member in the Department of Family and Community Medicine with a distinguished record in caring for and comforting older persons

Visits: 13


  1. Steve Smith on March 16, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Debbie and family,

    Thank you for sharing so much of David and your personal journey with all of us. Your candid and honest approach inspired patients, families and healthcare professionals around the world. I will always remember your presentation at the AAHPM HPNA annual assembly and be grateful to David for what he taught me about life and death. God Bless, your AAHPM family.

  2. Mary White on March 19, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I did not know Dr. Oliver personally, but I admired his strength and courage to live and die on his terms. He is an inspiration to every life he touched. God speed, Dr. Oliver.

  3. bobbie norman on March 19, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Debra, so sorry to hear about Davids passing. I always enjoyed my short nurse visits with him at the clinic, he was always so upbeat and inspiring to me. He was such an awesome person and everyone should learn a lot from knowing him. Bless you and rest of your family. Bobbie from green meadows

  4. Sandy Matthew on March 19, 2015 at 2:41 pm


    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  5. Liz Baiocchi-Wagner on August 1, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    Debbie and family, I am clearly late to this news–by a long shot. I was just thinking about David a few months ago and wondered how he was doing, and was prompted to find news of him online. I’m so sorry to hear of his passing and sorrier I was not able to connect with him again before his death. He was one of the first professors who believed in me–literally from my first month in my PhD program at Missouri–and shepherded my scholarship and passion for older adults. Those initial connections that David provided and doors he opened for me in my four years of graduate school paved the way for my future. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not. I owe him so much and hope that I believe I let him know this many moons ago, but in the event I didn’t do it adequately, I want you to know.

  6. Deborah Kean Outhavong on April 14, 2021 at 8:44 pm

    Wow just like the whole world Dr Oliver inspired I am moved with appreciation for having had him as my freshman sociology professor at the College of the Ozarks way way back in the fall of 1971. I just goggled his name and learned of his continued life long greatness . My claim to fame having had his contagious passion for life long learning ! For all eternity Dr Oliver teaches gratuity !!! Thank you ? Dr Oliver !!! You were the coolest teacher ever !!!
    Appreciatively yours ,
    Deborah Kean Outhavong
    Plano , Texas
    ESL Specialist Levine Academy
    Dallas , Texas

  7. Roger D. Hutchcraft on July 11, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    So sorry to hear of his passing as he crossed my mind and memories from having him as a teacher at College of the Ozarks in the early 70s. He was a very positive influence on everyone who was a part of his life and I’m grateful to have known him. Condolences to his family.

  8. David W. Sanders on January 12, 2022 at 9:12 pm

    I’m very sorry to hear of Dr. Oliver’s passing. I knew David Oliver for three years while a student at College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, Mo. (The former School of the Ozarks until it’s name change.) I was a sociology major and enjoyed every course I ever took under his tutelage. Dr. Oliver was one of those people that once you met him you never forgot him. He was very outgoing, thoughtful, perceptive and caring. Not always mentioned is his sense of humor. I could always tell when he was teaching a class because of the gales of laughter emanating from what ever room he occupied. I remember with fondness the many times we played handball, he was an exceptional player and crushed his opponents with regularity. He taught us that part of good sportsmanship was to give it your all, which he always did.
    My condolences go out to his family, friends and acquaintances. The world would be a much better place if we had more good men like David Oliver.

  9. Larry Tomes on November 23, 2022 at 6:18 pm

    Sorry to hear of his passing. Dr. Oliver was a positive influence on my life. I enjoyed the entertaining and informative sociology classes at the School of the Ozarks. He will be missed.

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