Camille McDuffie has known about Davidson's rigorous and renowned academics since she was in high school, but it wasn't until her son, Will, enrolled in 2012 and began his four-year college experience that she and her husband Robert got to see what a truly unique learning environment Davidson provides. Their son's experience as a scholar and athlete delighted them, and inspired them to support the college in many ways over the years, including an upcoming performance by Robert, who is a renowned violinist.
"We are big believers in the liberal arts, and we have always admired Davidson for its academics and its beauty," said Camille. "Seeing Davidson through our son's experiences has been wonderful. I remember when he told me David Brooks from The New York Times was coming to campus his first year, and I couldn't believe he was having these kinds of opportunities."
Will came to Davidson as a Division I scholar athlete, and he was a member of the track team his first two years. An injury forced him to quit competitive running, but he took that energy and poured it into his work with the student paper, The Davidsonian, where he now serves as co-editor-in-chief.
"We've been able to see the Davidson experience through several lenses," said Robert. "Davidson is a place where athletes are also respected as students, and the college expects a high level of performance from all students. That isn't the case everywhere, and it's something we value as a family."
The couple says Davidson offered many of the things they wanted for their child's college experience: small class sizes, close relationships with professors and opportunities to get involved. Three professors in particular have influenced their son's life–Professor Emeritus Elizabeth Mills, Charles A. Dana Professor of English Cynthia Lewis and Associate Professor Maria Fackler, of the English department.
"Will's good experience is in part due to the relationships he has formed with members of the faculty," said Camille. "We also love that Davidson emphasizes the importance of living and studying abroad. Will participated in a summer program in Cambridge and spent a semester in Dublin. These are life-changing opportunities."
During Will's sophomore year, the McDuffies attended an event on campus and met President Carol Quillen. After hearing from her and learning about her vision for the future, they were inspired to develop further their connection to the college.
"In a time when many people say that only majors in business or STEM fields will land you a job, we need leaders like President Quillen who believe in the power of a liberal arts education," said Camille. "The humanities are critical, and the importance of being able to write and think analytically cannot be overstated. If you don't read the great books in college, it's hard to make time for it later."
The McDuffies have been extremely generous to Davidson through commitments of time, talent and resources. The next partnership between the college and the McDuffie family comes in the form of a concert. Robert, one of the world's most sought-after violinists, will perform April 13 in the Duke Family Performance Hall. The concert will benefit Davidson College and WDAV 89.9, a member-supported public radio station providing classical music and cultural arts programming.
"Davidson College is a special place, and I'm honored to perform and to help support one of the great classical stations in the country, WDAV," said Robert.
Tickets are available now, and can be purchased online.
Following graduation this May, Will has accepted a position with Teach for America and will be working in elementary schools in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area.
"We are very proud of Will," said Camille, "and we're excited for the future of Davidson. It's just going to keep getting better and better. All of the Davidson graduates I know are fine, fine people, and it's an honor to be a part of this community of leaders."