At Your Service

Davidsonians have held elected and other key civic offices locally and across the land—from city hall to the halls of Washington, and from foreign service offices to high office in international alumni home countries.

Here’s a look around at just a few of the public servants who’ve made the commitment to have an impact for good in the world. To tip your hat to other worthy Davidson public servant-leaders you may know, visit the online version of this story at

By the Numbers

11: Eleven Davidson alumni were Charlotte, North Carolina, mayors, starting with Francis Irwin Osborne 1872, through John Belk ’43 (Belk Freeway), Anthony Foxx ’93 (youngest Charlotte mayor ever) and Rhodes Scholar Dan Clodfelter ’72. Foxx moved in 2013 from the mayor’s office to his current service as U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

3: Three alumni have served as North Carolina governor: Robert Glenn 1875, James E. Holshouser ’56 and James G. Martin ’57. Davidson’s genomics program is named for Martin, a chemistry professor by trade who once taught at alma mater.

1 Year: Woodrow Wilson studied for a year at Davidson with the class of 1877. Campus legend has it that when he visited campus as President and announced himself as such through the closed door of his former dorm room, the current occupant yelled back, “The hell you are!” When the door opened and there, in fact, stood President Wilson, the embarrassed student is reported to have jumped out the window and run away.

Secretary of State: Dean Rusk ’31 served as U.S. Secretary of State in the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, 1961-69. Rusk Eating House and the Dean Rusk International Studies Program at Davidson are named for him.

Many Mayors: Mayors are local building blocks of civic pride and service, and Davidson mayors through the years are too numerous to count. Mary Verner ’88 was recently mayor of Spokane, Washington, and Joe Jaworski ’84 of Galveston, Texas. Currently, Bill Bencini ’74 is mayor of High Point, North Carolina, and Sean Murphy ’91 is mayor of Telluride, Colorado.

On the Hill: On Capitol Hill, John Spratt ’64 served his South Carolina district and the nation for 28 years in the U.S. House, forging his reputation as a nuts-and-bolts workhorse on policy and budget issues. W. Wyche Fowler ’62 served Georgia in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, and later the nation as ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Fowler likewise eschewed polarizing flash for more substantive perspectives, once describing himself in print as a “flaming moderate.”


About Author

John Syme '85

Senior Writer John Syme graduated from Davidson with a French degree in 1985. After gigs in newspaper, advertising, translation in France and cross-country travel writing in the United States, he returned to alma mater in 2001. He has no immediate plans to graduate again.

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