Davidson's 16th president, Robert F. "Bobby" Vagt '69, received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the May 15 Commencement ceremony. The following citation was read prior to his award.
While a student at Davidson, Bobby Vagt ran for the office of student body vice-president.
Perhaps that brief frustration taught an important lesson: good, but conventional, paths to leadership are not best for everyone. There were other roads for a young person who would secure a degree in Psychology, followed by a Divinity degree from Duke and a lifetime of both varied opportunities and continued learning. Bobby's paths led him to prison inmates in need of counseling and respect, both of which he supplied; to people dedicated to helping New York City untangle its troubled finances; to executives and directors making their way through the global challenges of energy interdependence; to donors and leaders helping to recreate through philanthropy the vibrant city of Pittsburgh.
Among Bobby's adventures was the one most significant to us today: his decade as president of Davidson. He ushered the College into the twenty-first century with new buildings, new investments in technology, increased support for faculty and staff, and determined pursuit of ever-greater diversity on campus. He presided over a fundraising campaign that exceeded its financial goals, including major additions to scholarship funds and a doubling of the endowment. He had the vision to create the Davidson Trust, making Davidson the first liberal arts college to aspire to have as many students as possible graduate free of debt and ready to follow their own dreams unimpeded by large financial burdens. With the unfailing support of Ruth Anne, he played host formally and informally to students as avidly as to donors.
Bobby may have lost a student election. But Davidson College won–as did the many other communities he has enriched by his enlivening personality, his wise counsel, and his invaluable leadership.
NOW THEREFORE, on this 15th day of May in the year 2016, Davidson College honors you, Robert F. Vagt, and names you Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.