By: Mary Margaret Robison ’21
Former Dean of Faculty Dr. Clark Ross, a current member of the Economics Department, has donated $3.6 million to Davidson for a need-based scholarship available to Catholic students, pushing the Game Changers campaign past its goal of $425 million over a year early.
For 39 years, Ross has played a prominent role in the Davidson community as a professor, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and a leader with a broad vision of the future. The idea for the scholarship gift began a few years ago, when, according to Ross, he began to think about which characteristics of Davidson were most important to him.
“We still have a long way to go as Davidson goes up in cost,” he said. “[Scholarships] make sure that the strongest of students, regardless of their financial ability, can come to Davidson.”
The scholarship will be available to Catholic students from around the world who demonstrate financial need. Ross believes that spirituality of any kind is not just important but a crucial aspect of a liberal arts education.
“Spirituality to me is somewhat a reflection of character,” Ross said. “I would like us to have a rich religious diversity here, Christian and non-Christian.”
According to Ross, there are many ways to explore spirituality within the context of education, all of which enrich a student’s learning experience. Davidson’s Catholic community, however, happens to be Ross’s home. Catholic students make up over 20% of Davidson’s student body, both domestic and international. Throughout his career at Davidson, Ross has been a part of that community, watching it change and grow with time.
“I already feel that we’ve come a long way. I remember an alumnus from the 1950s saying that he felt uncomfortable as an Episcopalian with all the Presbyterians on campus. I don’t think students are judgemental about other people’s religions. I want to encourage that kind of interaction,” he reflected.
Ross praised College Chaplain Rob Spach ‘84, saying, “He has been a true gift to Davidson because he wants to see spiritual development.”
The Game Changers: Inspiring Leaders to Transform the World campaign set a goal to raise a total of $425 million by June 30, 2018.
Although Ross’s gift helped them reach this goal a year ahead of schedule, there is still a long way to go.
Vice President for College Relations Eileen Keeley ‘89 and Associate Vice President for Development Brad Martin spoke about the three primary categories of fundraising for the Game Changers Campaign: scholarships, community of excellence, and preparing Davidson students to lead.
The “community of excellence” portion goes toward creating a better learning environment (hiring professors, building new facilities, funding programs in arts and technology), while the “preparing Davidson students to lead” portion goes towards supporting post-graduation endeavors so that students can make an impact in the world as soon as possible.
Scholarships make up 50% of fundraising goals, and even though the overall $425 million has been made, the campaign still hopes to raise more money in this category. Keeley, who served as Ross’s prospect manager for the scholarship, thinks that his gift will inspire others to generate scholarships.
“When you have a donor who’s been a professor and a dean and who has devoted his entire life to Davidson without being a Davidson grad—I think that is an incredibly powerful statement to our alumni,” she reflected.
Davidson’s Catholic Chaplain, Karen Soos, thinks that Ross’s gift has inspired generosity in the Catholic community, too.
“It’s an affirmation for the Catholic community on campus. It’s a generous and public gift that acknowledges Catholicism,” she said.
She also agrees with Ross that spirituality, as well as religious community, is a vital part of learning.
“Everyone has a spirituality. It’s the thing that fires you throughout life,” she said. “You don’t have to be religious to be passionate about life. Feeding that is really important.”
According to Soos, the non-affiliated students are the largest growing demographic, but she believes spirituality will always remain applicable to student life. Both Ross and Soos also noted that the Catholic community at Davidson will change and evolve as more international Catholic students attend the college.
President Carol Quillen said that gifts like this one, especially from a well-respected faculty member, send a positive message to students that they belong at Davidson. She thinks that Ross’s generosity will also continue to inspire others to give in the future.
“Philanthropy happens when aspirations align. That’s when you get powerful partnerships between people and institutions,” Quillen said. “We’re all inspired by the generosity of other people and [Ross’s] generosity will inspire others to think about what matters to them.”
Ross hopes that his gift will reinforce the characteristics of honor and hard work that define Davidson students. He gave the gift in honor of former Deans of Faculty who inspired and influenced him throughout his career, including Dr. Frontis W. Johnston ‘30, Dr. T.C. Price Zimmermann, Dr. Bob Williams, and his successor, Dr. Wendy Raymond.
Ross commented, “In the end, it came down to me wanting to make the statement that it is the students who are the compelling part of Davidson.”