The College was established by Presbyterians in 1837. According to its Statement of Purpose, "the ties that bind the college to its Presbyterian heritage . . . have remained close and strong" but the dedication of the college "extends beyond the Christian community to the whole of humanity and necessarily includes openness to and respect for the world’s various religious traditions. Majors are offered in over twenty fields, as are several minors and self-designed interdisciplinary options. The college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked in the top ten liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine.
The school became co-educational in 1973 and today maintains a 50/50 ratio of men to women. A high percentage of Davidson graduates enter the legal profession, medicine, or government service.
Admission to Davidson is highly selective.
The Davidson College Office of Admission & Financial Aid presents the college as one "dedicated to intellectual and cultural growth in the broadest sense." Davidson prides itself on a student body chosen not only for their academic promise, but also for their character.
"Faculty and admission personnel work together to select students for admission. The selection process is composed of three major elements: 1) the evaluation of academic performance and potential; 2) the assessment of individual characteristics; and 3) the recognition of outstanding interests, achievements, and activities. These three elements are used to gain an understanding of each student's academic and personal strengths and, thus, give an overall evaluation of the individual's eligibility for admission.
Davidson has 167 instructional faculty members, of whom 159 are full-time employees. Almost all faculty members have terminal degrees in their field, with 163 of the 167 faculty members holding a PhD or their field's terminal degree.
Davidson students are bound by a strict honor code, signed by each student at the start of their Freshman year.
The Davidson College Honor Code states: "Every student shall be honor bound to refrain from cheating (including plagiarism). Every student shall be honor bound to refrain from stealing. Every student shall be honor bound to refrain from lying about College business. Every student shall be honor bound to report immediately all violations of the Honor Code of which the student has first-hand knowledge; failure to do so shall be a violation of the Honor Code. Every student found guilty of a violation shall ordinarily be dismissed from the College. Every member of the College community is expected to be familiar with the operation of the Honor Code."
Because of this Honor Code, Davidson students take self scheduled, un-proctored final exams. Many exams (known as "reviews" in Davidson vernacular) are take-home, timed, and closed book. Every assignment submitted at Davidson includes either an implicit or (more often) explicit pledge that the student neither gave nor received assistance on the assignment beyond the bounds of the Honor Code. The subscription of students to this Honor Code extends beyond 'reviews,' essays, or research papers. Notes around campus are commonly seen, whether on a bulletin board or taped to a brick walkway, describing an item found at the location and the finder's contact information so that the property may be recovered.
In February 2002, the Royal Shakespeare Company opened the Duke Family Performance Hall, one of the premier performance spaces in the Southeast. In 2007 and 2008, the Cunningham Fine Arts building, home to several smaller performance spaces, faculty offices, classrooms and set construction facilities, will be completely renovated.
Davidson President Tom Ross has repeatedly credited Davidson's Classics Abroad program with redirecting his life. Begun by Professor George Labban in the 1960s, the program has survived the retirement of Labban and his successor Dirk French. Presently, it is the most popular of the college’s study abroad programs, along with the Semester in India program. Davidson students may also take advantage of the wealth of outside study abroad programs available, applying their Davidson financial aid package to their program of choice.
Davidson's sports teams are known as the Wildcats; their colors are red and black. The Wildcats participate as a member of the Southern Conference in most sports. The sports that compete in other conferences include football in the Division I-AA Pioneer Football League, men's and women's swimming and diving in the Colonial Athletic Association, Field Hockey in the Northern Pacific Field Hockey Conference, and lacrosse in the American Lacrosse Conference.
The Wildcat men have competed in 10 NCAA tournaments (1966, 1968-70, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2006-08). Their last tournament victory was in 2008 over University of Wisconsin in the third round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. With that victory, the Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight where they lost to the eventual champion Kansas Jayhawks 59-57, capping off an incredible run that saw the rise of Stephen Curry to national prominence. The Wildcats' NCAA Tournament run came after finishing their regular season undefeated in conference play, at 20-0, and as the champions of the Southern Conference Tournament.
Under the guidance of Coach Bob McKillop, the Wildcats have consistently posted winning seasons. In 2006-07, the team completed its regular-season conference schedule with only one loss and entered the Southern Conference Tournament as a No. 1 seed, where the team would win the Southern Conference Tournament for the second consecutive season.
In 2005-06, the Wildcats went 20-10 and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament after winning the Southern Conference Tournament. In 2004-05, the Wildcats were undefeated in conference play at 16-0 and advanced to the third round of the NIT. In 2001-02, the Wildcats won the Southern Conference Tournament and lost a close game to Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship.
In addition to Driesell and McKillop, a number of notable NCAA men's basketball head coaches have coached at Davidson. Matt Doherty, current head coach at SMU and former head coach of Notre Dame, North Carolina and Florida Atlantic, experienced his first coaching job as an assistant under McKillop, who, not coincidentally, was Doherty's high school coach on Long Island. Former Virginia head coach and current East Carolina athletic director Terry Holland is a Davidson graduate (Class of 1964) and was Driesell's first recruit at Davidson, before advancing to assistant coaching, head coaching and athletic director duties at Davidson. Larry Brown, who would go on to win an NCAA championship with Kansas in 1988 and NBA championship with Detroit in 2004, began his nomadic head coaching career at Davidson, managing to depart before the start of his first season. Jim Larranaga, who took George Mason to the 2006 Final Four, is a former Davidson assistant coach. Rick Barnes of Texas was also a Davidson assistant.
The peak of the soccer program was in 1992 when the team made a magical run to the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament Final Four. Led by two-time All-American Rob Ukrop, Davidson finished the regular season 17-5-5, earning an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Three electrifying wins -- two on penalty kicks and one in sudden death overtime -- propelled Davidson into the Final Four, which miraculously was being hosted by Davidson on the school's campus. Davidson lost 3-2 in overtime against San Diego in the semifinal game, but the team received plenty of accolades. Ukrop led the nation with 31 goals and 72 points and was awarded the Adi Dassler Award, given to the nation's best player. Head coach Charlie Slagle was awarded NCAA Division I Coach of the Year for men's soccer. Remarkably, all of this was accomplished without the use of a single athletic scholarship on the 1992 team, leading The New York Times to herald the team as "22 educated feet."
Davidson offers over 150 student organizations on campus, including arts & culture organizations, performance groups, sports groups, political organizations, health & sexuality groups, religious organizations, and social action groups. The Student Activities Office encourages and is available for students wishing to develop an organization not yet established at Davidson.
Most student events are sponsored by the Union Board, the student organization in charge of the student union. In addition to hosting concerts throughout the Fall and Spring semesters, the Union Board organizes events such as pancake breakfasts at midnight, movies, and Freshmen welcome events.
The Davidson Delilahs, an all-female group, have produced four albums to date: "Falling into Place" (2001); "Head over Heels" (2004); "Kickin' Off our Heels" (2006); and a brand new self-titled album "Davidson Delilahs" (2008). The Delilahs also frequently host other a cappella groups from across the country, including, most recently, the Haverford S-Chords.
Davidson Androgyny was founded in 1998 as a response to the absence of a co-ed a cappella group on campus. Androgyny has released two albums, "Everything But The Piano" (2001) and "The A Capocalypse" (2003), and is set to release its third album in Fall of 2008. The group also sang "I'm Yours" with platinum recording artist Jason Mraz on his "Music, Magic, and Make Peace Tour" stop at Davidson College on April 19, 2008.
In total, there are eight national fraternities and five local eating houses on campus. Approximately 65% of the female students and 38% of male students belong to a fraternity or an eating house.
In addition to not including loans in their financial aid packages, Davidson recently completed a capital campaign adding 156 new scholarships funded with $88 million. Davidson states that they are committed to providing 100% of demonstrated need of all students, with 33% of students receiving need-based aid and over 50% receiving some form of financial aid.
In the 1850s, Davidson overcame financial difficulty by instituting "The Scholarship Plan," a program that allowed Davidson hopefuls to purchase a scholarship for $100, which could be redeemed in exchange for full tuition to Davidson until the 1870s. The college's financial situation improved dramatically in 1856 with a $250,000 donation by Maxwell Chambers, making Davidson the wealthiest college south of Princeton. The Chambers Building was built to commemorate this gift. On November 28, 1921, the Chambers Building was destroyed in a fire but was rebuilt 8 years later with funds provided by a generous gift from the Rockefeller family. The Chambers Building continues to be the primary academic building on campus.
In 1923, the Gamma chapter in North Carolina of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Davidson. Over 1500 men and 500 women have been initiated into Davidson's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
In 1924, James Duke formed the Duke Endowment, which has provided millions of dollars to the college, including a $15 million dollar pledge in 2007 to assist with the elimination of student loans.
On May 5, 1972 the trustees voted to allow women to enroll at Davidson as degree students for the first time (women had attended classes as early as the 1860s but did not enjoy degree privileges). The first women to attend classes at Davidson were then-President Kirkpatrick's five daughters, who attended classes to increase the size of the student body during the Civil War. Art major Marianna "Missy" Woodward ‘73, the only woman in a class of 217, was the first woman to graduate from Davidson.
In early 2005, the College's Board of Trustees voted in a 31-5 decision to allow 20% of the board to be non-Christian. John Belk, the former mayor of Charlotte and one of the heirs of Belk Department Store, was a casualty of this decision, resigning in protest after more than six decades of affiliation with the college. Stephen Smith also resigned. Belk, however, continued his strong relationship with his alma mater and was honored in March 2006 at the Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the Belk Scholarship.