The Class of 2012 share high aspirations, stunning accomplishments, and a sacred trust.
By Stacey Schmeidel
Davidson’s Commencement was doubly special this year, as it celebrated the accomplishments of the Class of 2012 and significant new support for scholarships at Davidson.
The new scholarship support comes in the form of a $25-million gift from Ted Baker ’57, a former Davidson trustee and chairman emeritus of Patriot Transportation Holdings, Inc. The gift—the second largest in the college’s history—will support The Davidson Trust, Davidson College’s commitment to meeting 100 percent of admitted students’ need with grants and student employment, but without loans.
President Quillen announced the gift at the end of the ceremony, after all graduates had received their degrees. “Your class,” she noted, “is the first to fully embrace The Davidson Trust. By that I mean two things: This class is the first to fully benefit from the college’s commitment, announced in 2007, to make equal opportunity real by meeting the demonstrated financial need of all admitted students without loans in financial aid packages.
“But you all did not just benefit from the trust,” she continued. “You embraced this project as your own. Through your leadership, we have a new tradition, Dinner at Davidson, through which current students raise money for need-based scholarships. Therefore, I want you to be among the first to know that this week, Davidson has received from Ted Baker ’57 a gift of $25 million to support The Davidson Trust.”
The family and friends assembled for graduation gasped at the news, then rose to a standing ovation, led by the faculty and students. Baker’s $25-million gift will provide additional support for the Baker-Vagt Scholarship, established by Ted and Ann Baker and former president Robert F. “Bobby” Vagt ’69, and his wife, Ruth Anne, to provide assistance to students for whom a Davidson education would not otherwise be financially feasible.
“Davidson has always been important to our family,” Ted Baker said, “and I’m pleased to offer this additional scholarship support as an investment in the future.” Ted Baker is one of Davidson’s most active and well-known alumni. A member of the Board of Trustees from 1989 to 2005, he was on the search committee that brought President Bobby Vagt to Davidson in 1997, and he chaired the Trustee Campaign Cabinet that led the Let Learning Be Cherished campaign to raise a record $272 million to strengthen the college. A former member of the Board of Visitors, he received an honorary degree from the college in 2007 and meets regularly with and provides mentorship to the students who hold the prestigious scholarship named for his parents, Thompson S. and Cynthia L’Engle Baker.
Baker’s gift, the Trust was present at Commencement. The college awarded an honorary degree to Russell M. Robinson II, founding partner of one of the state’s most successful law firms, Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson, and a leader in many of Charlotte’s most important community service organizations. As a trustee of The Duke Endowment, he has helped strengthen programs in the fields of health care, child care, rural Methodist churches, and higher education. The Davidson Trust was established while Robinson chaired The Duke Endowment Board.
Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Awards were presented to Brian Shaw, professor of political science, and Julio Ramirez, the R. Stuart Dickson Professor of Psychology. Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards were presented to W. Terry Laney, director of the Our Towns chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and to graduating seniors Jennifer C. Burns (for her work on sustainable food) and Rebecca B. Weidler (for her leadership in revitalizing Davidson’s Gay Straight Alliance).
In her Commencement remarks, President Quillen praised the graduates for their accomplishments. “You have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for breast cancer detection, cancer research, AIDS research, a national bone marrow registry, and The Davidson Trust,” she said. “You have defeated national champions. You have re-imagined Romeo and Juliet, published scientific papers that are now world famous, and performed your own musical compositions. You have won Fulbrights and gotten into graduate schools. You have managed political campaigns and reported from war-torn regions of the globe. You have created leadership programs for women, local high school students, and at-risk adolescent girls. You have founded organizations that combat poverty, racism, human trafficking, bullying, and homophobia. You qualified for the NCAA track and field championships. You have written business plans for start-ups, published short stories, built a window-closing robot, and designed a solar-powered cart. You have worked for affordable health care, sustainable food production, educational access, and cleaner air. You got jobs! You have taught five-year-olds to read, you have painstakingly recorded the memories of octogenarians, and you have gently held the hands of dying hospice patients. And you have done these things while going to college. Thank you for the example you hold out for all of us.”
Photo Credit: Bill Giduz