At Thanksgiving dinner in 2006, I recall my nephew, Marshall Oelsen ’10, then a freshman and the first close family member to go to Davidson, announcing prophetically that Davidson was in our future. I have two sisters, and he is the son of one of them. The following year, my other sister’s daughter, Alexandra de Marigny, joined the class of 2011.
Our two daughters, Isabelle ’18 and Sidney ’21, did not follow their cousins’ path just to conform. They vetted their decision thoughtfully, thoroughly and agonizingly as there are other good colleges, and it is not easy to determine the right fit. Isabelle was seeking to transfer from another university, and was keen to get it right. When she was making up her mind regarding Davidson, Marshall, the yin, advised her, “You better know what you’re getting into – you will be working all the time, busting your___, and don’t expect to make A’s just because you worked hard.” (Marshall was a chemistry major and now a second year urology resident in San Antonio – she happened to catch him when he was preparing for some medical boards and was understandably stressed). Isabelle looked ashen after that conversation.
Then Alexandra, the yang, called, “Oh, don’t listen to Marshall! He had ‘too much fun’ freshman year, and was playing catch-up the next three years so he could get into med school.” She gushed for almost an hour about Davidson, explaining that she could not have had a higher quality education. What mattered even more were the quality of people she was around, students, faculty and administrators alike, and the friends for life she made. Isabelle looked a lot happier.
As parents, Julie and I could only advise, but could not direct. We are grateful Isabelle was accepted by, and chose, Davidson. Both Alexandra and Marshall were correct. What Marshall was trying to say was how integrity at all levels is ingrained into Davidson’s culture, from the honor code to the grading system. All of this comes together to form an intimate, scholarly community, challenging but warm, with bonding among those sharing the experience. There’s no comparison between the quality of Isabelle’s experience at Davidson and the university from where she transferred. We are grateful that Sidney was accepted by, and chose, Davidson. Although her journey has just begun, she is branching out to take advantage of the incredible opportunities to grow as a person, from outdoor odyssey to a comedy improv group we hear she has joined.
We are grateful for how Davidson has nurtured our daughters and given them so many opportunities to become scholars, develop relationships with peers and faculty, learn to comport themselves as professionals and become good citizens. This environment does not just happen; it takes an incredible amount of effort and devotion by faculty and administrators as well as good leadership to hire the right people and foster the community. We take none of this for granted. Davidson is also an understated, humble institution that is incredibly generous to its students. We are grateful to all of those alums and other supporters whose generosity has made all of this possible, and will do what we can to make Davidson a better place for those who follow.