Davidson is increasingly a place of cyberspace and cybertime, with top-notch connectivity worldwide among alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents, and friends of the college. All the more reason to take a deep breath and remember that Davidson is still and evermore a very real place on this earth, in time past, present, and future. The 400-plus acres of main campus sit perched on some of the highest land on the Mecklenburg side of the Catawba River Basin, as ordained and subsequently arranged by the college’s Presbyterian forefathers in 1837. In the ensuing 175 years, much has changed. But of the many who trod Davidson’s mud paths and plank steps, and now its brick walkways and marble stairs— generations came to love the place itself. Over time, some enriched the campus with its most graceful spaces, buildings, and facilities, which carry their names or the names of loved ones. Here, just a few of these—from the past, the present, and even a peek at the future. So take a deep breath, sit back, and recall how very real a place is Davidson College.
Whether for a pseudo-solemn ceremony to install a fake headstone for dearly departed Bill Edwards ’53 (the big phony) or a student club’s picnic on the tables by the towering brick barbecue pit, Hobart Park provides respite from the hurly-burly of daily life. Named for F.D. Hobart, superintendent of grounds from 1925 to 1960 and father of John Hobart ’51, the park has a plaque that proclaims, “If you seek his monument, look about you.” Today, there’s even a campus literary magazine named after the park. Lauren Cunningham ’09 pushed things to the next level when she spearheaded fund-raising for a labyrinth in the park, which soon took on a life of its own. Interested alumni matched funds with the President’s Office. James W. Cannon Professor of Religion Karl Plank donated funding from his 2009 Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award, which allowed students to add a fountain and lighting to the centering space. This year, gardener Paul Pergiel and groundskeeper Frank “Sarge” Laforgia teamed up on their own time and dime to install a gong-style bell made from a spent fuel tank. Everybody must get ommmed!
Blackwell Alumni House
The college built this Main Street house in 1914 for Professor Joseph M. McConnell, who would later serve as Davidson’s first academic dean. At various times in its history, the McConnell House has been home to students, faculty, and staff, including D. Grier Martin and family, who lived here for 12 years before moving next door to the President’s House. In 1986, on the eve of the college’s sesquicentennial, Davidson established here its first Alumni House. The building was remodeled and renamed in honor of longtime, beloved Alumni Relations employee Nancy Overcash Blackwell in 2000.
Field Hockey Sculpture
This sculpture, by Jon Hair, of two avid field hockey players is a highlight at the Carol Grotnes Belk Turf Field, given in her honor by her husband, Irwin “Ike” Belk ’45. The first synthetic turf surface on campus when it opened, the field is home to the women’s lacrosse and field hockey teams and features grandstands and lights for night play. A big sculpture fan, Ike Belk also donated the enormous Wildcat statue between Baker Sports Complex and Richardson Stadium, which contains the Stephen B. Smith Football Field and the track, named for Ike Belk.
Named in memory of James Arendell Hodges, Jr. ’60 by an anonymous donor as part of the Chambers Building renovation (2002–04), Hodges Hall is one of many spaces in Chambers that now carry personal legacies. There are the James K. Dorsett Jr. ’38 Office of the President and the Cannon Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs. The Vagt and Baker wings on the main floor honor two men who helped make the Chambers renovation happen. Upstairs wings and classrooms call out an honor roll of familiarity: MacDonald, Thatcher, Kleemeier, Davis, Partin…. And lest we forget our history, a plaque beside the Spencer Lobby lists the names of “families and friends who sustained these halls in years gone by.”
Julia Johnston House
“As a second grade teacher, she [Julia Johnston] was greatly beloved by all of the children. However, I hated going to her home on Saturday morning to recite the shorter catechism. Remember, Davidson was a very Calvinistic Presbyterian community in the 1920s. Children were required to learn the answer to questions like: ‘What is sin?’” former state legislator Goudyloch “Giddy” Erwin Dyer ’38 once recalled. Built circa 1883, “JJ House” was acquired by the college in 1961, served hardily as raucous students’ housing from 1977 to 1987, and currently houses the raucous Office of College Communications, which produces the Davidson Journal.
The chapel of Davidson College Presbyterian Church is named for Walter L. Lingle 1892, president of the college trustees from 1906 to 1929, and president of the college from 1929 to 1941. In the chancel, named for Mrs. Mary Sampson Dupuy, “A devoted member of this church, 1885–1928,” a more recent addition is a rainbow-diversity banner that stands furled in the corner, awaiting its next duty of celebrating all seekers of the spirit. In the chancel’s center, the altar itself stands firm and proclaims the Eucharist words of Christ Jesus: “This Do In Remembrance of Me.”
Long Courtyard, Weinstein Center
The Lee Carpenter-Long and Gary Long Courtyard is a short, grassy space gracing the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Center. Gary Long graduated from Davidson in 1973 and has been an active alumnus of the college; the Weinsteins came to know Davidson through their long friendship with Sam ’40 and Ava Spencer. In fact, an office suite in the Weinstein Center is now named for the emeritus president and his wife. Both the Weinsteins and the Longs are committed to globalism and international studies, and the Dean Rusk International Studies Program is housed in the Weinstein Center.
Even construction of the college’s emerging 250-bed residence hall is no threat to the hallowed Patterson “Hoops” Court. The new dorm is scheduled to open next August, and has been designed with lots of shared common space to strengthen the sense of community among residents.
The Blanche Knox Parker Courtyard, between Dana and Watson science buildings in the Baker-Watt Science Complex, is a gift of the family of Blanche and Charlie ’38 Parker, onetime wrestling coach. Blanche Parker’s granddaughter Kristen Eshleman, the college’s director of instructional technology and media production, often visits her grandmother at The Pines in Davidson. Parker, a lifelong resident of the area, is known for her stellar quilting. During the year that she attended Davidson College, 1934–35, Blanche Parker was also known for stitching together a straight-A average.
The first 12 houses on Patterson Court, which was named for William S. Patterson 1903, were constructed in 1958. “Each of the fraternities will have a separate house, and are scheduled for use in the fall of 1958,” said the Charlotte Observer. The paper quoted President D. Grier Martin, “‘We hope that the new court will be as pioneering and modern in the fraternity housing field as the present court was when constructed in 1928.’” Rusk House was founded in 1977 as a social resource for women at the newly co-ed college, and was named for Dean Rusk ’31. This began the tradition of naming female eating houses after Davidson alumni—and alumnae: Turner House was built in 1999 and named for the college’s first director of community service, Catherine Turner Greene ’93.
“This little house, which stands next to the college laundry,” the Davidsonian explained in 1961, “was built before the Civil War to house servants for the ‘Sparrow’s Nest’ [residence]. A certain Mr. Sparrow, one of the prominent citizens of early Davidson [Thomas Sparrow, a local merchant and brother of first faculty Patrick Sparrow], had built his home on the lot next to the present site of Richardson Dorm. He had four attractive daughters who managed to charm a goodly portion of the nearby student body….In time, things got so cozy that the place was fondly spoken of as the ‘Sparrow’s Nest.’” The building, bought by the college in 1908, was a boarding house into the ’20s, and housed the campus security office in the ’70s and ’80s. Currently it houses one of the Physical Plant Department offices and the Office of Sustainability.