Davidson Kept its Promise: The Autry Family Connection

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Our Christmas card this year featured Bailey ’20 and John ’22 (incoming freshman) in Davidson swag, with our cat, Cameron, and the caption, “Have a Meowy Christmas! Have a Wonderful, Wild(cat) Christmas!”

Autry children and catTwo years ago, our family had no connection to Davidson. Why was our family now all in? Bailey had no connection to Davidson until a visit his senior year in high school. He knew Davidson’s reputation for academic excellence and its up-and-coming Division I running program with a charismatic young coach. He had grown up as a Blue Devil, though, not a Wildcat.

We attended Decision Davidson and heard a panel of administrators describe the Davidson environment, where exceptional young adults are made to feel stressed, challenged—as if they’re on a tight rope—and where they’ll learn to make it to the other side. A parent asked, “Why should my daughter attend Davidson, instead of a research university like Duke?” I’ll never forget the answer. “She should attend Duke…after she goes to Davidson. Here, what she is, and does, for the next four years is all that matters to us. Our professors aren’t driven by pressure to publish. All we do for four years is give your daughter the best undergraduate education she can have.”

Davidson kept its promise. Bailey learned he can count on the support of the school community. Many times, he emailed a professor late at night about an assignment, expecting to receive a response after it was due, only to receive one minutes later, day or night. Election night. Bailey had a review in an early class. Late that night, a student emailed the professor on behalf of herself and several others, to ask that the test be postponed. Many of the students were simply unable to process the election results and wouldn’t do well on the test, she wrote. Almost immediately, the professor responded that anyone who wanted to reschedule could do so without penalty. It was a kind, understanding act that recognized the enormous significance of the election, to both those who were happy with the result and those who were not. The professor wanted the students to succeed—not fail because they were emotionally caught up in the making of history.

Another Davidson moment occurred late in Bailey’s freshman year, when, at the last minute, his roommate for the next year made other plans. Bailey would have to take pot luck, a worrisome departure from the careful, Myers-Briggs-based placement incoming freshmen received. The Residence Life staff performed the same sort of analysis when pairing the upperclassmen. Bailey was paired with a Syrian refugee, a student whose life experiences were, in some ways, very different from Bailey’s. Rooming with Hani has been a great experience for Bailey. The RLO staff identified the similarities that would make them compatible despite their differences. Isn’t that what we all need?

Next year, Johnny will join his big brother. His Davidson experience will be different from Bailey’s, though I can’t predict in what ways. What I do know is that he will be challenged and will make it across the tightrope to the other side.

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Stephanie Autry

George and Stephanie Autry are parents to Bailey, Davidson College class of 2020, and John, who will be a freshman Wildcat this fall. The family lives in Wake Forest, N.C.

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