Gardner Ligo's Enduring Influence As She Retires After More Than 40 Years

Gardner Ligo and Davidson Belk scholar join hands at student senior sendoff

Gardner Ligo (left) at the Belk Scholars Senior Sendoff. The director of merit programs has served more than 40 years in college admissions.

The seeds of Gardner Ligo’s more than 40-year career in college admissions were planted early.

The director of merit programs, who retires this year, attended three colleges as an undergraduate—including a yearlong stint at Davidson College through a new-at-the-time exchange program. The year was 1971, and nine women from colleges in Virginia and North Carolina joined the student body of 900 men for an experiment that ultimately opened the doors to coeducation at Davidson. It wasn’t easy.

College-aged Gardner Ligo with group of female friends

“It was exciting, stressful, fun, demanding, eye-opening, frustrating, rewarding, life-changing,” she says. “I had never worked harder academically. Nor had I ever encountered outright discrimination because of my gender.” Ligo graduated from Mary Baldwin College and returned to Davidson to join the admission staff at the behest of President Emeritus Sam Spencer.

Throughout her career, she brought a distinct personal touch to every interaction with prospective and current students. “As I tell them regularly, they are a joy,” she says. “Their hearts, their smarts, their generous spirits, their creative energy, their passion to serve inspire and motivate me every hour of the day. I will greatly miss being part of their lives.”

Ligo’s story is part of the story of coeducation at Davidson and is available through the Inclusive Histories of Davidson College Project.

This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2021 print issue of the Davidson Journal Magazine; for more, please see the Davidson Journal section of our website.


  • June 24, 2021


Cover Photo