(Editor’s Note: The GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal citations, such as this one, are read to the audience at the awards dinner and then presented as a keepsake to the recipients.)
After Davy Davidson hit a hole in one, his golfing buddy Tommy Watkins returned to the golf course the next day to memorialize the hole with a picture of the ball in the cup. “Davy asked me was I sure the pin was in the same place,” Tommy said. “He wanted it to be an accurate depiction.”
He just cannot turn off the attention to detail. Davy is, in his own words, too much of a nerd about getting things organized and doing his homework.
How a man plays golf often says a lot about who he is, and on Davy, friends say, there is no dirt. He hits straight down the middle of the fairway, and he never lands in the rough. He focuses on the positive, and he looks forward, not back. He encourages the team and tips his hat to the competition.
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from UNC and earning an MBA from Harvard, Davy worked on Wall Street for 13 years, until his uncle was no longer able to continue running the family business. Davy returned to Greensboro and took over for his uncle as president of Engineered Plastics, a company that makes products as diverse as medical equipment and playground structures.
He began his service to Carolina while he was still in New York, when he took a seat on the GAA board. He has since served as first vice chair and for many years as assistant treasurer. He recently completed a term as the board’s chair. He also served on the Board of Visitors for four years and was appointed to the Chancellor Search Committee that recommended Holden Thorp ’86. Davy has applied his strong financial background to working closely with the UNC Foundation Investment Fund since the 1990s.
Faculty Chair Joe Templeton, also on the search committee for the chancellor, was impressed not only by the energy and enthusiasm Davy brought to the search; he noticed that even in a large gathering, people gravitated to Davy “because you can tell he’s processing what you’re saying.”
“I’m completely comfortable arguing with him,” Templeton said. “We can talk gently, we can pound the table, we can yell at each other, and I’m not worried about the relationship I have with him.”
During his term as GAA chair, Davy instituted more structure to committee report presentations. He insisted, in his nerdy way, that speakers watch the clock so that all got equal time and no report continued beyond its efficacy. He also inaugurated something called “My Carolina Story.” Board members’ tales of inspiration and insurrection in their Chapel Hill days have entertained as well as enriched the experience of quarterly get-togethers. GAA Counsel Bill Aycock ’65 said the “Davy administration” showed a sense of leadership and order, “but also creativity.”
Davy was steeped in Carolina blue from the day of his birth. There never was a question where he’d go to college – his mother, grandfather, aunt, uncle and sister are Carolina alumni. On Sunday his daughter, Charlotte, will join their ranks. And he has a message for her and for her brother Dave and sister Kathleen.
“If you find something you love, commit to it and do the best you can for the right reasons, good things happen,” Davidson said. “I can’t think of anything better for my kids to learn.”
The GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal has been awarded since 1978 to alumni and others who have provided outstanding service to the GAA and/or to the University. The award is presented at the annual Alumni Luncheon on the weekend of reunions and Commencement in May. This year’s recipients are Bernadette Gray-Little, executive vice chancellor and provost; Dwight M. “Davy” Davidson ’77, past chair of the GAA Board of Directors; Fred N. Eshelman ’72, a major supporter of the pharmacy school; and James H. “Jim” Winston ’55, who helped establish the College of Arts and Sciences’ first overseas facility.