Transformative $60 Million Gift, the Largest in Davidson College History, Supports Academic Hub of Campus

a group of five people standing on a stage clapping as confetti falls around them

Alison Hall Mauzé '84 (chair of the Board of Trustees), Trustee Emeritus Bob Abernethy, President Doug Hicks '90, Charlie Lucas (chair of The Duke Endowment) and Anthony R. Foxx '93 (vice chair of the Board of Trustees) during the celebration of the transformational gifts to create the George Lawrence Abernethy Library.

For 100 years, The Duke Endowment has made extraordinary contributions totaling $4.5 billion to charitable organizations in higher education, healthcare, child and family well-being, and rural churches in communities across North Carolina and South Carolina. Davidson College is one of the four higher education institutions the Endowment supports, along with Duke University, Furman University and Johnson C. Smith University.

Charlie Lucas, chair of The Duke Endowment Board of Trustees, today announced the largest gift ever received in Davidson’s history: $60 million in support of a transformed Davidson College library. The historic moment was celebrated during a campus-wide gathering in the Duke Family Performance Hall. 

“The Duke Endowment has long recognized the critical role libraries have played on college campuses and in fulfilling the mission of higher education,” said Charlie Lucas, chair of The Duke Endowment. “Our Trustees are confident this transformational project will continue to further intellectual and academic excellence at Davidson and enrich the experience of students, faculty and the community for years to come.”

This core academic space at Davidson will be named The George Lawrence Abernethy Library, honoring the longtime philosophy professor at Davidson, supported by an extraordinary $25 million gift from his son, Bob Abernethy. Learn more about the Abernethy contribution

Davidson will transform and expand the existing library, which sits at the very center of campus, to create a world-class, modern library. For the last 50 years, the E.H. Little Library has served its purpose well. The college now builds on that strong foundation to expand its capacity to inspire scholarship and connection at the center of campus.

“The Duke Endowment has played a pivotal role in making Davidson College the place it is today,” said Davidson College President Doug Hicks ’90. “This historic support of the academic heart of campus — our library — moves us forward in ways that will serve our students, faculty and the community for generations. It will change the way we work together, the way we learn, the way we grow. I am excited for what the transformed space will do for Davidson, and I am deeply grateful for the continued partnership of The Duke Endowment and its leaders. It is an honor to be serving Davidson during such an important time in our history.” 

a group of people standing on a set of stairs

The Duke Endowment Trustees during a fall visit to the library.

The way Davidson students, faculty, staff and community members research, create and share knowledge has shifted rapidly in recent decades, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The academic library of today and tomorrow must offer not only books and a place to study, but also hands-on opportunities to experiment and test ideas, spaces and tools to create, share, and preserve new forms of scholarship, practice collaborative skills-building, and expand information and digital competencies.

“As a library team, we have innovated as much as possible within the current physical space, and we are beyond eager to take innovation to the next level alongside our fantastic campus and community partners,” said Lisa Forrest, the Leland M. Park Director of the Davidson College Library. “Libraries are symbolic as they represent the aspirations and values of the institution. This investment from The Duke Endowment will help make an already strong educational experience truly exceptional.  

“Space is such a powerful motivator. As the center of intellectual life at Davidson, the future library will transform the learners’ experience. Who do you want to be when you come to the library? Researcher? Writer? Presenter? Videographer? Podcaster? Informed citizen? The future library will provide the kinds of inclusive spaces and hands-on learning experiences to support these aspirations and more.”

In the spring of 2021, after an extensive research process, the college invited a select group of national firms with deep library design expertise to interview for the opportunity to conduct the feasibility study. MSR Design, an award-winning firm based in Minneapolis, was selected to lead that effort. Having worked on more than 16 million square feet of library space across the country, MSR Design is at the forefront of library design. The firm has won 261 international, national and regional design awards, including 81 awards for the team’s library work.  

The George Lawrence Abernethy Library

The George Lawrence Abernethy Library

The Duke Endowment’s philanthropic legacy touches every corner of Davidson’s campus, including support for collegewide priorities such as affordability and access through the James B. Duke Scholarship and support for The Davidson Trust, faculty excellence through the James B. Duke Professorships, and leadership gifts to support new campus buildings, including the E. Craig Wall Jr. Academic Center, the Duke Family Performance Hall, Duke Residence Hall and more. Every person on campus is positively affected by the Endowment’s generosity.

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 To share general information or thoughts, please send a message to