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Hackenson Family Fellowship Honors Staff Who Supported Billy '13 at Davidson

by Danielle Strickland
The Hackenson family
The Hackenson family (l-r) Bill, Kristin, Elizabeth and Billy '13

Billy Hackenson '13 cites the role of Student Government Association president as one of the defining experiences of his time at Davidson. He enjoyed working closely with policies, programs and people to effect change on campus, and he used that experience to refine his personal leadership style.

He also values the strong sense of community and the value that is placed on personal relationships at his alma mater.

"Faculty and staff make an effort to attend athletic events, theater performances and student debates," said Billy, "and knowing that close network is there to support you is an invaluable asset that I am only beginning to fully appreciate. Students can feel empowered to take risks and challenge themselves because they know the community is there to support them. You can embrace the college experience fully with no regrets.

In addition to Billy's first-hand experiences on campus, his parents, William and Elizabeth, also felt the strength of community at Davidson. Because of the family's shared passion for the people that make Davidson the special place it is today, the Hackenson Family Fellowship has been established to recognize staff members that go above and beyond the call of duty in the interest of student success. The fellowship awards funding for continuing education or travel.

"We were so happy Billy selected Davidson," said Elizabeth. "I felt the same spirit he did - an open environment with very trustworthy people. It's like a home away from home."

Elizabeth recalls the many staff members they met over the last four years during visits to campus.

"I can tell that the staff members at Davidson aren't just showing up to a job every day," she said. "They love Davidson, and they love the students. As a parent, that's a great bonus. We weren't sending him off to a place where he was just a number or a name. The staff members realize these are formative years for the students and that their value systems are probably still maturing. It's a big role they play in students' lives, and I think much of their work often goes unnoticed."

As Billy's graduation day approached, the family agreed that they wanted there to be a legacy in his honor that also recognized the people who made his Davidson experience so wonderful.

The Hackenson Family Fellowship was inspired not only by Billy's experience but also by his two grandfathers who dedicated their lives in the service of country, community and family: William E. Hackenson and Victor J. Panetta. Both veterans of the armed forces, Hackenson and Panetta were municipal and staff employees for decades, fully committed to the belief that their constant effort, hard work and high standards for excellence were vital to the communities they served.

"These men represent the ideal that staff employees are truly the backbone of any great institution," said Elizabeth. "Billy's grandfathers connected with the people they worked with in very special ways. They were dedicated to their life's work and never saw it as a job. At Davidson, it is clear the staff members love coming to work, and they love being with the students. Our dads did too ... so it all came together."

When Billy's parents receive compliments about their son, they graciously accept the kind words, but they refuse to take full credit.

"We're wise enough to know there was another ecosystem at work, and that's the people of Davidson College," said Elizabeth.

Looking ahead, Billy plans to remain involved as an alumnus. He sees the Davidson experience as one that continues long after the diploma is awarded.

"The person you are when you leave Davidson is very different from the person you are when you arrive," he said. "Davidson teaches you work ethic and humility, and it makes you stronger. I see the growth that occurred for me at Davidson as a reason to give back, both with time and philanthropy."

For more information contact Danielle Strickland, Director of Advancement Communications, at 704-894-3101 or dastrickland@davidson.edu.