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Douglas A. Hicks ’90 Inaugurated as Davidson College President

by | Apr 4, 2023

President Doug Hicks holds the Davidson College mace that was hand crafted by Jack Ramseur ’31.


Author: Mary Elizabeth DeAngelis

An Enduring Purpose, a Hopeful Future: Davidson College Inaugurates Douglas A. Hicks ’90


“Davidson friends, today we inaugurate our shared future, and I am so honored to lead in that process.”

-Davidson College President Douglas A. Hicks


Davidson College officially welcomed its 19th president today with an inauguration ceremony that brought the college community, family and friends together to celebrate one of their own. 

President Douglas A. Hicks ’90 invoked tradition and progress, saying while sometimes there’s a tension between the two, both play important roles in Davidson’s mission to turn out humane leaders prepared to tackle the challenges of a rapidly changing world. Essential to that, he said, is an inclusive college campus welcoming to people of many differing backgrounds and perspectives.

“For me, the Davidson tradition has always been about expanding our world view and sense of community,” Hicks said. “Nearly four decades ago I arrived at Davidson from Indiana in the family minivan. Faculty opened my mind both to what is possible in the ideal realm and what social realities keep people and communities from reaching that ideal.

President Doug Hicks’ family was there to share the event with him. He was also joined on the dais by former presidents (l-r) Tom Ross, Bobby Vagt, Carol Quillen, and John Kuykendall.

“My Davidson education led me to frame the key question of my professional life: How do we shift our focus away from human deficits and deprivation to build our human capabilities?”

With hope and purpose, he said:

“For any liberal arts education to go beyond understanding our world to shaping it, we need hope. We dare to hope for a future that is more equitable and humane, with less suffering and division than the present. We dare to believe that Davidson’s high educational purpose can play a key role in bettering ourselves and those around us.”

Doug Hicks ’90, 19th President of Davidson College

Hicks started his new role in August. Friday’s ceremony followed long-standing tradition, with Davidson and visiting faculty processing in full academic regalia. The college’s Symphony Orchestra and the Brass Ensemble performed. Faculty Marshal and Physics Professor Daniel Boye carried the college’s mace, carved from Honduran mahogany by Jack H. Ramseur ’31.

Poet Leah Mell ’19 read Spring Unraveling: A Crown, which she wrote for the occasion. The poem describes Davidson’s evolution, from the original bricks laid by enslaved workers through its history, touching on the multi-faceted academic, cultural and social experience of Davidson.

The president’s daughter, Ada Neill Hicks, 16, read Psalm 100.

Chair of the Board of Trustees, Alison Hall Mauze ’84, giving the oath of office to Doug Hicks ’90.

Besides students, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, friends, families and community members, a cast of luminaries included the four previous presidents: John Kuykendall, Bobby Vagt, Tom Ross and Carol Quillen. Dozens of delegates represented colleges from across the country. Notables from the political front included U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, U.S. Representative Alma Adams, and Davidson Mayor Rusty Knox.

College trustee Anthony Foxx ’93, a former Charlotte mayor and former United States Transportation Secretary, introduced Hicks.

“We’re in a moment that craves hope. Our president, Doug Hicks is ready for the job. We’re excited and proud that you have returned home.”

Anthony Foxx ’93

College Priorities

During Friday’s ceremony, Hicks outlined college priorities that included continuing to broaden access and affordability, transforming the library and academic programs for the digital age, and building stronger connections with the town of Davidson and greater Charlotte region.

He called for advancing athletic programs amid NCAA changes, forging new paths between a liberal arts curriculum and an evolving global workplace, and “seizing the moment to model an inclusive and mutually respectful campus culture.”

“In the coming academic year, we will undertake strategic planning together to prepare for a dynamic shared future,” he said. “We’ll do so from a position of strength, and with a firm sense of what we value. We’ll also do so in the spirit of hope—that is, seeking inspiration from our high ideals, and employing careful analysis and strategic use of resources to guide Davidson.”

Continuity and Change

Hicks was dean of Oxford College at Emory University before returning to lead Davidson. He majored in economics at Davidson, earned a Master of Divinity from Duke University, and Master of Arts and doctoral degrees in religion from Harvard University. He’s also an ordained minister of The Presbyterian Church (USA).

His studies in economics and religion have made equity issues central to his life and leadership. Viewpoints may vary dramatically, he said, but Davidson cultivates a culture of facing problems with an eye toward solving them.

That includes a need to learn from the past—and respectfully engage with different generations—as new ideas, innovation and social changes propel the college forward.

“Ours is a living tradition that embraces the tension between continuity and change. It strives to be responsive to the educational needs of our students in every era, preparing them for their individual and shared futures.”

Doug Hicks ’90, 19th President of Davidson College

“At a time when some seem to take pride in polarization, let us be known as a college focused less on winning arguments and more on listening to and learning from each other.”

And hope, he said, is essential.

“In both philosophical and religious worldviews, hope is a virtue,” he said. “Hope is more than that. It is a practice. A daily practice, a way of being in the world.

“We exercise our critical thinking skills to analyze and understand the world. We exercise our moral imagination to see something better. Then we exercise our courageous resilience, and we get to work.”

View the News of Davidson photo gallery from the inauguration.


Click on this image if you want to watch the inauguration ceremony.

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