When the late Walter Olin Nisbet III '63 was a student at Davidson, he had a penchant for entrepreneurship. He and his classmate and close friend, Lawrence Kimbrough, sold ads for the football and basketball programs. They had a wonderful time, and they made a good amount of money. It gave them a taste of what was possible, and Nisbet built a career that complemented his enterprising spirit.
To honor the essence of Olin and his family's collective love for Davidson, Marian Nisbet and her two sons, Walter Olin "Chip" Nisbet IV '86 and William McGowan Nisbet, have committed generously to support the college's entrepreneurship initiative. This gift is intended to inspire and support students' entrepreneurial ideas.
Part of the gift will establish the Davidson Venture Fund to provide students and young alumni seed money and early funding of for-profit startup ventures. The second part of the gift will establish the Nisbet Workshop for Entrepreneurs, which will bring to campus entrepreneurs to speak about their careers. The workshops will be administered jointly by the Entrepreneurship Initiative, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the Center for Career Development.
"We hope our gift inspires students to turn their thought and ideas into reality," said Marian. "We want to open their eyes to new vision. This is something we've worked on with the college for over a year, so we're very excited to watch it come to life. Olin would be absolutely pleased with our decision to support Davidson in this special way."
The family is excited by the prospect of students and young alumni having opportunities to take their business ideas to the next level, and they like the fact that Davidson will have an interest in the successes and outcomes of these efforts. The fund is uniquely structured so Davidson will have an equity participation in the investments.
"Today, it's easier than ever before to start a company given all the technology and outsourcing capabilities that are provided," said Chip. "You can literally start a business in a dorm room. That's really exciting, and the more we can get students thinking about what's possible, the better.
"First and foremost, we were interested in doing something in honor and memory of my father, who was a great entrepreneur," he continued. "He instilled a lot of that interest and thinking in both me and my brother."
The Nisbet family's gift provides support to establish and launch both programs, but they are hopeful others will follow their lead and get involved.
"I like to think we've provided the seed money for the fund," said Chip. "Other ideas will develop from this, so it's all about getting started and seeing what can happen. We hope other alumni will contribute to and grow the program."
"The Nisbet family's thoughtful and generous gift is a significant step for Davidson's entrepreneurship initiatives," said President Carol Quillen. "In addition to the support from the Nisbets, other initiatives include the Davidson Venture Lab, the Avinger Entrepreneurship Scholarship, the entrepreneurship internship program, and, next fall, an Entrepreneur in Residence," said President Carol Quillen. "A Davidson education develops humane instincts and creative and disciplined minds. As a result, our students have great ideas. The Nisbets' support means more of those ideas can exert greater impact in the world. I look forward to developing these programs and engaging the campus community in the next chapter of Davidson entrepreneurship."