At 7:30 p.m. on Monday, November 9th, members of the Davidson community gathered in the Lilly Family Gallery for a presentation hosted by the Honor Council Speaker Series and co-sponsored by the Chidsey Center for Leadership Development and the Vann Center for Ethics: “Living the Honor Code: During and After Davidson.” Mary Scott Manning ‘17, Chair of the Honor Council Speaker Series Committee, introduced the crowd to the evening’s presenter, Alexandra McArthur ‘09, commending her as an individual who “lives her life as a celebration.” Among many impressive accomplishments, McArthur graduated from Davidson cum laude as a history major, cofounded the Women’s Leadership Conference during her time at Davidson, and was crowned Miss Wheelchair America in 2011. She is currently a social consultant at the Taproot Foundation in New York City, where she works with large corporations to coordinate opportunities for nonprofit work within their corporate agendas.
As McArthur took the stage, she thanked the Davidson community at large for their continued support and reception of her visit. She initially emphasized the importance of both leadership and ethics, as well as their collaborative properties and potential impacts within the Davidson student population. McArthur began her presentation by expressing her happiness that the Honor Code is still “alive and well” on campus and in the larger alumni community. She then transitioned to a multimedia element of the speech, by introducing a compilation of videos that was contributed by various Davidson alumni where
each of them express what the Honor Code means to them. The audience looked on as various successful graduates, including lawyers and surgeons, discussed what they had taken away from their Davidson Honor Code experiences. Recurring themes and ideas included the concepts of “setting high expectations for oneself,” acting as ambassadors for the wider Davidson community, and continuing to exhibit “honor, trust, respect, and learning” in all aspects of life.
Following the inspirational clips, McArthur returned to the stage to share her unique perspective on the Honor Code, made so by her personal experiences at Davidson. Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of five, McArthur expressed how she faces incredible obstacles in regard to the stigmas attached to wheelchairs. She stated that she began to truly know herself once she realized it was “up to [her] to change expectations” and delineate herself as an honest, trustworthy person. She wanted these attributes to outshine her physical disabilities. This epiphany led McArthur to feel very comfortable and supported at Davidson, a place where she knew that her peers held themselves to a standard of kindness and that the community was nurturing.
McArthur then proceeded to discuss the three main lessons she had learned in conjunction with the Honor Code. She discussed the importance of practicing honorability (i.e. getting better at making the right choice each time one does so); using one’s honor to enhance the community around him or her and thriving in that community; and the aspirational qualities of obtaining honor. She emphasized the third lesson the most, accentuating the importance of knowing “how to hold onto ambition that is greater than [one’s] self.” At Davidson, according to McArthur, the community especially fosters this, as the standards are so forcefully upheld by students and faculty alike.
The format of the presentation then moved to a Q&A. Among many thought-provoking questions posed by the audience, one individual inquired as to how McArthur reacts to instances in the professional world where others may not hold themselves to the same standards of honor as she. McArthur responded by discussing the importance of her Davidson friends’ guidance and support post-graduation when faced with moral questions and issues. She also clarified the importance of knowing oneself and one’s values when approaching professional situations, concluding that ultimately, such knowledge will gain more respect from colleagues and superiors in the workplace.
Following the event, the room was abuzz with positive reactions and enthusiastic applause. Rachel McKay ’17 said that she “appreciated hearing [McArthur’s] perspective on moral and ethical qualms in the real world,” and she found it useful to “get some retrospect” from an individual with Honor Code experience outside of the Davidson bubble. Many other students reiterated Rachel’s sentiments and expressed their appreciation to the Honor Council for hosting such an event.