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Bacca Foundation Gift Supports Davidson as Creative Pioneer in the Humanities

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A $3 million gift from the Bacca Foundation will advance the humanities at Davidson College.

"As a historian, I am moved by this commitment to humanities at Davidson, which profoundly enriches the study of global cultures across time and geography," said Davidson College President Carol Quillen. "Engaging in such study will enable our graduates to lead creatively and humanely in today's interconnected, rapidly changing world."

The $3 million gift will endow the Bacca Professorship in the Humanities, to be held by an outstanding scholar who demonstrates wide-ranging engagement across humanistic disciplines and who acts as an advocate for and exemplar of the value of humanistic inquiry to the world. The gift also supports a collaborative re-imagining of the college's humanities program in a globalized frame and will enable new research, travel and learning opportunities.

"We are honored to partner with Davidson to build upon the college's reputation as a center for humanistic study," said the donor. "Through the study of humanities and its related fields, faculty and students are challenged and engaged in a way that promotes lifelong learning and inquiry around these important topics, and our intent is for this gift to help position the college as a creative pioneer and champion in these areas."

The first-year humanities course at Davidson, now named "Connections & Conflicts in the Humanities," has long been a cornerstone of the Davidson experience. The program was established in 1962 as a synthetic approach to liberal education that combined formal lectures and smaller discussion groups in a survey of key texts.

"Through the humanities program, we use recent examples and examples from long ago to explore the ways that critical ideas about human existence have been reiterated or refuted over time," said Neil Lerner, E. Craig Wall Jr. Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, professor of music and chair of the humanities program. "Being able to speak and write persuasively and with precision, and to read carefully and critically prepares students not only for the rest of their time at Davidson, but also for meaningful, productive lives and careers. The revitalization of the program builds on what Davidson has always done well in preparing students to lead and serve today and tomorrow."

Betsy Marshall '16 says her first humanities course promoted thoughtful inquiry in a way unparalleled by any other introductory course at Davidson.

"We were able to build a narrative that I don't think exists in other classes," said Marshall. "A liberal arts education is at its best when students and faculty are working together to find answers to questions, and I was challenged alongside my professors. I dabbled in several majors during my time at Davidson, and I felt confident doing so because I had this incredible foundation from the humanities survey."

The Bacca Foundation commitment advances the college's Game Changers: Inspiring Leaders to Transform the World Campaign, which recently surpassed $318 million toward a goal of exceeding $425 million by June 30, 2019.