Colby-Sawyer College receives $3 million gift
NEW LONDON — Colby-Sawyer College has received a $3 million gift from Bill and Sonja Davidow of Woodside, Calif. Mrs. Davidow graduated Colby-Sawyer College in 1956, when the school was known as Colby Junior College.
The gift will support the college’s highest academic priority of building a new fine and performing arts center and will fund the Sonja C. Davidow ’56 Endowed Chair in the Fine and Performing Arts.
“Both Bill and I are very interested in art,” said Mrs. Davidow, a former Colby-Sawyer trustee. “My grandfather was an artist. I don’t think he did anything else but paint. That was his life, and I thought, what a wonderful thing to be able to do that and support his lifestyle, which many artists can’t. Art, whether painting, photography, or whatever it happens to be, is very important, and we want to ensure that Colby-Sawyer students have the opportunity to study and practice art in a beautiful space.”
As passionate as they are about the arts, the Davidows are equally dedicated to philanthropy.
“Sonja and I like to deal with institutions that have a well-defined focus on important issues and are excellent in executing those focuses,” said Mr. Davidow. “We feel that Colby-Sawyer meets those criteria, and so we’re enthusiastic about supporting the college.”
The art center project is a critical next step in the further development of Colby-Sawyer’s physical campus, and will provide a home for the growing arts programs under one roof. The new center, sited on the east end of campus with views of Mt. Kearsarge, will anchor the academic quad that has been developing since the Curtis L. Ivey Science Center and Windy Hill School opened near the Cleveland Library Learning Center.
“On rare occasions, we are given opportunities to make an extraordinary difference,” said Colby-Sawyer President Thomas C. Galligan Jr. “This is one of those times in Colby-Sawyer’s history, as this project will impact every student, every faculty and every staff member at the college, as well as hundreds of community members who look to the college for cultural enrichment.”
Already members of the college’s Heritage Society, the Davidows were inducted into Colby-Sawyer’s Legends Society last fall. The society honors those benefactors whose generosity to the college totals $1 million or more.
“It is with utmost appreciation that we say thank you to the Davidows for their extraordinary investment in Colby-Sawyer. Sonja and Bill are two wonderful people who have done an amazing thing for Colby-Sawyer, our faculty and our students,” said Galligan. “Their support, combined with that of other philanthropists, will provide a facility that matches the exceptional teaching and learning experience that Colby-Sawyer offers in the fine and performing arts.”
A Team for Life
The Davidows met in the mid-1950s when Mrs. Davidow earned her medical secretary degree at Colby Junior College and Mr. Davidow attended Dartmouth College to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He later earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
Mrs. Davidow worked for Harvard Medical School in the Children’s Hospital in Boston for five years before moving to California, where she was the assistant to the head of the Radiation Therapy Department at Stanford for five years. Mr. Davidow worked in a variety of managerial positions before serving as senior vice president of marketing and sales, vice president of the microcomputer division and vice president of the microcomputer systems division at Intel.
The couple raised two horse-loving daughters, Carolyn and Rebecca, and Mrs. Davidow was very involved with their school activities and equestrian competitions. An avid reader, she served as president of the Friends of the Atherton Library for five years as well as on the town of Woodside's History Committee for 13 years. A highlight of her philanthropic work was the award-winning renovation of the Folger Stable in Woodside. Her latest endeavor is sharing her leadership, experience and wisdom with the Arts and Culture Committee, whose mission is to coordinate local events for all generations of Woodside residents.