As early as February 1960, then President D. Grier Martin began envisioning a statement of purpose for Davidson College. Within the course of the next two years, Martin’s idea began to take shape, as a “Committee on Purpose” was formed in January 1962. As David Wheeler explained, “these men sought not only to grasp the meaning of an education at Davidson and its value to the community but also to describe men the committee would deem qualified to serve the college.” In presenting their report, the Committee on Purpose emphasized two elements that must continue to characterize Davidson, both of which remain deeply rooted in the ties between the College and the Christian faith:
1. That Davidson remain “a Christian liberal arts college: a community committed to Christ in faith and morals; a community seeking to exemplify Christian principles in all phases of life; a community committed to excellence in scholarship; an institution created, guided, and nurtured by the church; an institution providing intellectual and moral leadership for church and world community; an institution concerned about man’s view of himself, his relationship to his neighbor, and his obedience to God; a community in which non-technical and non-vocational studies liberate men physically, mentally, and spiritually”
2. That Davidson remain “a stimulator of students: to view life and job as a Christian calling; to think clearly; to integrate faith and reason; to develop qualities of character and scholarship to fulfill responsibilities; to become better acquainted with great areas of academic discipline; to become masters in the art of communication; to work creatively in a chosen field in preparation for future formal study; to develop habits of learning; to recognize and appreciate beauty, goodness, and truth; to know and appreciate heritage; to develop physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually, and to develop concern about and willingness to confront world problems.”
Bearing this goals in mind, on September 24, 1964 the Committee presented a draft of the Statement of Purpose to the trustees, who unanimously approved it. The next academic year, 1964-1965, it was published in the academic catalog.
Since 1964, the Statement of Purpose has undergone several revisions, the most significant of which occurred in 1994, when the strict religious traditions of the Statement of Purpose were lessened in order to “express a greater sense of inclusiveness.”After suggestion by the student body and the faculty, a committee was established in 1992, to review the Statement of Purpose. This committee eventually drew up a proposal to revise the Statement of Purpose as follows: In a bold change, the wording of the second paragraph of the document was modified to read as “The loyalty of the College thus extends beyond the Christian community to the whole human community and necessarily includes an openness to and respect for the world’s various religious traditions.” In addition, the trustees began to consider the possibility of whether non active members of the Christian church could be members of Davidson’s trustees.
The response to the 1994 revision were largely positive. Professor Ben Klein, chairman of the committee tasked with this revision, explained that “the revised statement is more coherent in language and more hospitable in intent in representing Davidson’s beliefs. . . . it does not weaken the college’s commitment to religion, but broadens it, and makes it clear that the college welcomes anyone capable of making a contribution to the community regardless of their religious beliefs.”
The 2005 revision of the Statement of Purpose was found much more controversial, as it would modify the religious perquisites for membership on the Board of Trustees. This revision, in tandem with a revision to the Trustee By-laws, would allow up to 20% of the board to be non-Christian in faith.
The current Statement of Purpose, which reflects the 1995 and 2005 revisions is accessible through the college website.
Crow, David. “Trustees propose allowing non-Christians on Board.” Davidsonian. 20 October 2004. Statement of Purpose Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Jennings, Jay. “Trustees vote to revise Statement.” Davidsonian. 25 April 1994. Statement of Purpose Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
“Revised Statement of Purpose Updates Commitments.” Davidson Journal Spring 1994: 21. Statement of Purpose Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Wheeler, David. “Davidson College’s Statement of Purpose.” July 2004. Statement of Purpose Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Author: Jim Harris
Date: 8 February 2012
Cite as: Harris, Jim, “Statement of Purpose,” Davidson Encyclopedia, 8 February 2012 <http://libraries.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/statement-of-purpose/>.