Davidson College Partners Invest $85 Million in the Future of Collaboration & Scholarship on Campus

The George Lawrence Abernethy Library

With this extraordinary support, Davidson College launches an effort to renovate and expand the existing library to create a multi-purpose space that enhances the academic experience, houses programs that equip students for lives of leadership and service, fosters community and inspires wellness. 

Two longtime partners of Davidson College, a life-changing philanthropic organization and a professor’s son who grew up in Davidson, committed $85 million to help transform the college’s library and the way students learn. 

The Duke Endowment, devoted to strengthening communities in the Carolinas, is providing $60 million, the largest gift in Davidson’s history. The endowment’s support inspired a $25 million gift from Bob Abernethy, a California business leader and child of the founder of Davidson’s Philosophy Department.  

The historic support launches the fundraising for the overhaul, which will help Davidson answer the global question of how a library, with a deep collection of physical books, reimagines itself in a digital age. The revamped library will help prepare Davidson students for solving problems in the world that didn’t exist when they enrolled.

“Davidson students learn differently today than they did 50, 20 or even five years ago,” said President Doug Hicks ’90. “It is our responsibility to provide our students, faculty and community with the kinds of academic spaces and resources they need to contribute to the world today. Books and periodicals remain vital in that process, and so do digital resources and spaces for innovative group work.

“A transformed library at the center of campus is vital to this shift, and we are deeply grateful to The Duke Endowment and Bob Abernethy for their collective investment and for the many years they have supported Davidson and its future.” 

Hicks and senior college leaders helped build this collaboration between The Duke Endowment and Bob Abernethy. Conversations with each party had taken place during 2023, and in October those conversations converged when Hicks shared information with The Duke Endowment board members about a possible individual benefactor who wished to honor his father, a noted Davidson professor.

Davidson will renovate and expand the existing library to create a world-class, modern space with opportunities for students, faculty, staff and the broader community to collaborate, explore, experiment and grow as researchers, creators, scholars and informed citizens. The library will be named for Bob’s father, George Abernethy, who founded the Philosophy Department and co-founded the Humanities Program at Davidson. 

Bob grew up in Davidson, hearing about The Duke Endowment and its profound impact on Davidson and its other partner organizations throughout the Carolinas. Today, the two extraordinary donors share a passion for the way learning will be, and must be, reshaped to best serve the college’s purpose of assisting students in developing humane instincts and disciplined, creative minds for lives of leadership and service.

For the last century, The Duke Endowment has been vital to the life of learning at Davidson, generously supporting initiatives like the James B. Duke Scholars Program, James B. Duke Professorships, the E. Craig Wall Jr. Academic Center, research programs, international study opportunities, faculty leadership and so much more.

Visit the library transformation website to learn more, watch the project launch video and explore frequently asked questions. If you are interested in learning more about investing in the future of the library at Davidson, please contact Brad Martin in the Development Office at 704-984-2612 or bcmartin@davidson.edu. To share general information or thoughts, please send a message to DavidsonLibrary@davidson.edu