Middlebury

The Davis Family Library

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President Ronald D. Liebowitz delivered these remarks at the dedication of the Davis Family Library on May 6. Photo: Brett Simison.

I am delighted to welcome all of you, and I want to thank you for joining us for this significant occasion. We are about to do something that we have wanted to do for a long time: that is, publicly recognize an alumnus and his family to whom the College owes an enormous debt of gratitude for wise counsel, enthusiastic encouragement, and unparalleled financial support.

This support has been crucial to the success of many our most ambitious undertakings in recent years. Indeed, it would be hard to overstate the importance of this alumnus's service to the College and the impact of the family's philanthropy. They have truly had a transformative effect on Middlebury.

Up to this moment, the intended name of the library has been kept secret, not because we wanted to create an aura of mystery, but because our benefactors have been reluctant to be acknowledged in such a public way. Much of what they have done for Middlebury has been done anonymously. One reason this beautiful library—the heart of the college and the hub of campus life—has been without a name for so long is because we wanted to name it for this family, and we didn't want to have to call it the Anonymous Benefactors Library.

Now we have received permission to reveal our benefactors' names. Therefore, it is my great pleasure to announce that this building will henceforth be called the Davis Family Library in honor of Jim Davis, Middlebury Class of  '66, his wife, Anne, and his children, Chris, Class of '08, and Kassia.

Middlebury has been central to Jim's life ever since his student days. He says that many of the most important lessons that have shaped his life, his values, and his career were learned here from his professors, his friends, his teammates on the Panther football squad, and especially from his mentor and coach, Walter "Duke" Nelson.  He learned to value curiosity, open-mindedness, and hard work; to set challenging goals and strive mightily to achieve them; to recognize how much had been done for him and how much he was capable of doing for others.

After graduating, Jim became active in alumni affairs, volunteered as an alumni counselor for the Admissions and Career Services offices, and served as a Middlebury Trustee for 15 years. He has always pushed the College to think big and to be alert to new opportunities.

Most recently, he brought the opportunity to affiliate with the Monterey Institute to our attention and made the first gift to enable us to pursue that initiative. His goal has been to make Middlebury stronger by, in his words, "balancing the College's traditional but unique heritage with a continuing enhancement of the Middlebury experience, as we prepare our students for leadership in a rapidly changing, more complex world."

RDL and Jim Davis

Jim Davis ’66 expresses his gratitude for his parents’ hard work and the aid he received from Middlebury, both of which made it possible for him to attend college, an opportunity his parents did not have. Photo: Brett Simison.

Giving Back

Jim's emphasis on thinking big and seizing opportunities has been fundamental in his own career. He was six years out of college when he bought the New Balance Athletic Show Company in Brighton, Massachusetts, on the day of the Boston Marathon in 1972. He paid just $10,000 up front, with the promise of another $90,000 to come out of proceeds from the business.

At that time New Balance had only six employees and produced about 30 pairs of shoes a day, which were promoted by word of mouth and sold mostly through mail order companies. The company generated about $100,000 in revenue that year. Today, New Balance is the third largest manufacturer of athletic shoes in the country.

New Balance is an exceptional company in many ways. For one thing, in spite of its size, it remains a privately owned family business. Jim is the chairman; Anne is the vice chairman and executive vice president for administration and head of the New Balance Charitable Foundation, and Chris also works at the company.

New Balance is built on the same values that have guided the family's commitment to Middlebury. It makes shoes that people want to buy because they are really good shoes, not because of glitzy advertising. Jim and Anne are intensely loyal to their workforce. New Balance is the only major shoe manufacturer still making shoes in the United States, and two of Jim's original six employees are still with the company. And it reflects the family's strong belief in "giving back" by investing heavily in the communities where its offices and manufacturing plants are located.

Middlebury is incredibly fortunate to be included among the institutions and causes that the Davises have chosen for "giving back." Over the years, this family's gifts to the College have amounted to more than $70 million.

They always told us to put the money where it would do the most good, but the areas of greatest interest to them have been this library, financial aid for students, support for faculty, and athletic programs. Some of their gifts have been in the form of challenge grants, in which they have agreed to match contributions made by others for a particular purpose. In this way, they have often helped us to bring fund-raising campaigns to a successful conclusion, without bringing attention to themselves. For example, they were the anonymous donors who underwrote our alumni participation challenge, which helped us raise alumni participation in giving to the College from under 50 percent to 62 percent—the highest in the nation.

Honoring the Davis Family

There are many ways that we could have chosen to acknowledge the Davises for all they have done for Middlebury, but naming this library in their honor seemed the most appropriate. One reason is because we might not have built a new library when we did without Jim's consistent and enthusiastic encouragement.

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We were well into planning for the library when the dot-com bubble burst in the spring of 2000. We realized that raising a lot of money for a major building project could be quite a difficult task, and we were reluctant to risk adding to the College's debt. But Jim was on the Board of Trustees at that time, and he insisted that the library could not be postponed. "Middlebury needs this," he said. "We can't be a leader among liberal arts colleges without a first-rate library." And he promised that if finances became a problem, he would step in and make sure the College was covered. So we went ahead.

A second reason is that no other form of recognition seems adequate to acknowledge everything the Davis family has done for us. This was the most significant recognition we could give.

Now, if you will please raise your glasses, we will toast Jim and Anne Davis, whose generosity has transformed Middlebury College. In their own lives they have consistently demonstrated the creativity, innovation, pursuit of knowledge, and commitment to excellence that are at the core of a liberal arts education.

It is fitting that we should honor them by naming this beautiful building the Davis Family Library. Here students will collaborate with professors and undertake significant independent research. They will learn to think critically and analytically, ask the right questions, find the materials to help them sort out complex issues, write clearly, , and communicate effectively. Their Middlebury education will prepare them for the exciting, challenging world we all face today.

Thank you, Jim and Anne, for your generosity and commitment. We are grateful for your belief in the power of a Middlebury education.

Ladies and gentlemen—Jim Davis.