Davidson College has received its largest gift ever, $45 million from the Duke Endowment that college officials say will be used to “transform the academic heart of the campus.” The money will pay for renovations to a half-dozen campus buildings beginning next year, as well as a new science building.
The construction is part of a 10-year plan that Davidson officials say will “restructure” the campus to create what they’re calling an “academic neighborhood.” Davidson says the renovated and new buildings will have flexible spaces and common areas to encourage exchanging ideas across academic disciplines.
The $45 million donation is the largest ever at Davidson, topping a $28 million gift from John and Claudia Belk in 2000.
The Duke Endowment gift and 10-year plan were announced at a press conference Thursday morning at the Duke Family Performance Hall. In that meeting with college staff and news media, President Carol Quillen said: “Davidson graduates lead and serve in an increasingly interconnected, rapidly changing world. To stay ahead of these changes, we need to shift how we work, both physically and intellectually. This bold campus plan will enable our exceptional faculty to create a curriculum centered on students doing original work. It will support our dedicated staff as they help students build bridges between learning and life.”
Davidson Board of Trustees chair Mackey McDonald emphasized the milestone, saying, “This is the largest single gift to Davidson – ever. That’s worth repeating. This is the largest single gift to Davidson – ever.”
President Quillen accepted an initial $5 million check from the Duke Endowment, and joked, “I’m gonna try really hard not to lose this.”
Biology professor Malcolm Campbell, wearing a double-helix/DNA-themed tie, recalled the famous quote by hockey star Wayne Gretzky about “skating to where the puck is going” and said the 10-year plan would ensure that Davidson is building for where science is going.
As it remakes the campus’s academic layout, Davidson also is talking about other ways of remaking the way liberal arts is taught. The college already involves students in academic research. With the new “academic neighborhood” and other changes, it hopes to introduce new collaborations with off-campus businesses and organizations, and other universities.
Faculty from different disciplines would be grouped according to the resources they need and potential interactions. The building plans also call for a new café, artist studios, learning labs, shared equipment, and computing facilities.
It was the second time this year that Davidson announced a major gift. In May, alumnus Ted Baker gave the college $25 million to support The Davidson Trust, its program to ensure that students can graduate without loans. Mr. Baker is the retired chairman of Patriot Transportation Holdings Inc. and lives in Jacksonville, Fla. That gift at the time ranked as the second-largest ever at Davidson.
Thursday’s announcement is the latest in a series of steps the college has taken in recent years to modernize. In 2009, Davidson’s board adopted a strategic plan that called for expanding and diversifying the student body, and globalizing the curriculum.
Since then, the college has added new housing and begun restructuring its facilities. It has raised money for scholarships, including its guarantee that students can graduate without loans. The 2009 strategic plan, developed under former President Tom Ross, also called for a push toward more interdisciplinary majors and a reassessment of the curriculum.
Oct. 11, 2012, Davidson.edu, Davidson Receives $45M Gift From The Duke Endowment for Bold Campus Plan: $45 Million Investment is Largest Ever for Davidson College” – The Davidson College website announcement of the Duke Endowment gift.
See previous coverage on DavidsonNews.net of strategic planning at Davidson College.