Former First Lady Ava Clayton Clark Spencer, 1925-2019

Sam Spencer and Ava Spencer

Ava Clayton Clark Spencer, former First Lady of Davidson College, died Aug. 20, at the age of 94.

Known for her keen intellect, quick wit, and warm hospitality, Ava worked alongside President Emeritus Samuel R. Spencer Jr. during a pivotal time in the life of the college, including the introduction of co-education. Spencer, who graduated from Davidson in 1940 and served in the U.S. Army, met Ava at Harvard University, where both were pursuing advanced degrees. Their first date was a lecture by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, an early indication of their lifelong commitment to the life of the mind and the spirit. The two met and married in 1948 and had four children.

“Ava was a partner in leading Davidson at a transformative time in our history,” said President Carol Quillen. “She grasped the college’s primary purpose and the need for change in light of that purpose. All who knew her drew strength from her foundational integrity and learned perspective from her wry humor. We’re grateful beyond measure that she and Sam gave so much of themselves to this community.” 

The Spencers continued to live in Davidson after his retirement as president in 1983. The main lobby of Chambers Building is named in their honor, a fitting tribute to their deep commitment to inclusivity. In 2015, the college celebrated the naming of the Spencer-Weinstein Center for Community and Justice, a gathering place for students from all backgrounds and identities.

A service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14, at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.

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In Memoriam: Ava Spencer, Former First Lady of Davidson College

Samuel Reid Spencer Jr., 1919-2013


  • August 23, 2019