Janet Marie Stovall ’85 made the right choice, choosing Davidson over Duke. As an alumna and current parent, she’s working to ensure Davidson remains a top choice for students and an alma mater of which alumni can be proud.
“My Davidson experience wasn’t easy or always positive,” she said. “I may have had to scream at times, but there was always someone willing to listen. Davidson’s heart has always been in the right place. We just didn’t always know how to get where we needed to be.”
Stovall believes in the value of volunteers, and she says, “If we want alumni of color to engage, we have to come at them from where their experiences were. We have to use the right narratives.”
And even more, she walks the talk. Stovall has hosted alumni and parent events at her home in Atlanta, taught race-focused seminars and initiated workshops, co-chaired her class reunion committee, and served on the college’s Board of Visitors and as past chair of the Davidson Black Alumni Network. She serves as a co-chair for the spring 2018 Black Alumni Reunion, currently in the planning stages.
For alumni who don’t return to campus often, or at all, it’s difficult, Stovall says, to explain how many more opportunities exist today, how different things are and how the dialogue on campus has transformed.
“There are those of us,” she said, “that no matter how difficult our experiences were, saw something at Davidson worth fighting for. If we can remind alumni of that, if we blow on those embers, even if they don’t become strong volunteers, they will reengage, and we’ll all be better off because of it.”
Stovall sees great potential in what alumni can accomplish together, and it’s about more than just what’s happening on campus.
“I think Davidson, more than any other place, is positioned to take on one of the biggest problems facing the world—racism. Racism was constructed, so it can be deconstructed. We are smart enough, we have all the necessary elements and we can create real solutions for a world that needs a lot of change.”
Stovall’s life goal: Help Davidson become part of the solution. “It’s a huge issue, and we’re a tiny school. But we know all about that disproportionate impact for good in the world.”
Becoming a Davidson parent added a great deal of depth to Stovall’s perspective and involvement. Her daughter Maia is a member of the class of 2020.
Stovall told Maia she didn’t care if she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study in college. “That’s fine, but go to Davidson,” she told her daughter. “Even if you graduate with a degree in underwater basket weaving, people will know you’re smart and you know how to think.” Maia plans to design a food science major.
The foundation of a liberal arts education kept Stovall motivated as a student, and it drives her involvement today.
“Look at what our graduates go on to do,” she said. “Whether they earn a lot of money or a little, earn prestigious titles or labor unseen, they make a difference. They do things that matter.”