Hurt Hub Gift Inspired by Family, Liberal Arts and President Quillen
Before Kristi Mitchem ’92 went to Wall Street; before she was named CEO of a global company; before she became an advocate for diversity, inclusion and gender equality; she split her time between her political science studies, Warner Hall Eating House, the Student Service Corps and Union Board.
At Davidson, she learned how to write and how to think, and that foundation, she says, set her up for just about anything.
Her belief in a Davidson education and the way it applies to the world is what led Mitchem to make a significant investment in the Jay Hurt Hub for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a place she appreciates for the ways it puts the liberal arts experience into practice for students as they develop business acumen.
“I believe wholeheartedly in ‘intrapreneurship’—this idea that you can do something novel or innovative within any company, whether or not it is an organization you created,” she said. “That’s been most of my career. And since my professors were the most important part of my time at Davidson, I wanted to create a teaching element to this vision that would be maximally impactful. That’s exactly what the Hurt Hub does.”
Mitchem’s gift names the W. Spencer Mitchem ’59 Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship position, currently held by fellow alum Liz Smith Brigham ’04 and named in honor of Kristi’s father.
At the time Mitchem graduated from Davidson, women held a very small number of leadership and board positions in the business world. Mitchem quickly learned that having a strong ally is critical to success–a truth that she’s embraced throughout her career.
“Throughout the arc of your career, you ask yourself why you’ve been successful,” Kristi said. “My father has been my ally, but he has also been an ally for women in entrepreneurship and women in business more generally. The person who pushed me, inspired me and believed in me … that’s my dad.”
This spring, the father-daughter duo had the opportunity to help judge the Hurt Hub’s Nisbet Venture Fund Pitch Competition.
“The Hurt Hub is something that sets Davidson apart from some of its sister schools,” Spencer Mitchem said. “I’m glad Kristi is putting money behind it. When I was in town for the competition, I had dinner with my friend and classmate [President Emeritus] John Kuykendall, and he said he wished he had thought about it when he was president.”
Spencer came to Davidson from a small town in northwest Florida, and made friendships on campus that have lasted a lifetime. With all three of his children becoming Wildcats, he’s hoping at least one grandchild follows in those footsteps, too, so they can experience the many ways Davidson has continued to grow since his time as a student.
“When I was at Davidson, three quarters of the class went to graduate school,” he said. “The Hurt Hub allows students to structure a business and prepare for many different paths after college. I think that is great.”
Kristi’s investment will create even more opportunity for students, alums, business leaders and the community to partner and learn. Through experiential learning, mentorship, educational programming and access to capital for budding entrepreneurs, the Hurt Hub brings people together in the interest of innovation, new ideas and creative solutions.
In addition to recognizing her father’s deep influence in her life, Kristi, a member of the Davidson College Board of Trustees, also made this transformational gift in honor of President Carol Quillen, with whom she has connected as a woman in leadership. Quillen concludes her tenure as president at the end of July.
“Her running a college and me at a big business–we thought together about what Davidson needs to be successful and also what students need to be successful,” she explained. “Carol really brought to Davidson a fresh, modern vision about what today’s students need to maximize their impact as corporate actors and leaders in the world.”
When Kristi considered why this gift and why now, Quillen’s leadership is top of mind.
“This is a way to thank a president who has transformed the college in some meaningful, positive ways,” she said. “Carol is a brilliant, future-forward thinker. She has made Davidson better, and I hope this gift continues to move us in the right direction.”