Macalester gives banquet, honorary degree to philanthropist Shelby Davis

By Zac Farber

After philanthropist Shelby M.C. Davis officially announced his $13.5 million donation to Macalester students who graduated from United World Colleges last week, Macalester awarded him an honorary degree for his generosity to the 93 mostly international Macalester students, who hail from the 12 UWC secondary schools sprinkled around the globe. Davis, the founder of Davis Advisors, L.P., a $30 billion money management firm, was given the award on March 6 along with Philip O. Geier, the director of Davis’ UWC scholarship program. Macalester showed its appreciation by inviting about 180 members of the Macalester community-including the UWC students, faculty, members of the Board of Trustees and student representatives to the Board-to a swanky, three-course meal and degree-granting ceremony in the Hill Ballroom in Kagin Commons.

Before the donation, his charitable foundation already financed a $10,000 per year scholarship for UWC graduates. The gift will award the students with an additional $10,000 per year.

The extra $10,000 will free up funds from the financial aid budget, Rosenberg told the Star Tribune, increasing the amount of financial aid for non-UWC students as well.

In deciding how to allocate his donations, Davis said he tries to foster communities of UWC and international students.

He told The Mac Weekly he aims to build “clusters rather than very few [international] students. The bigger the cluster the better.”

Macalester’s status as a college with one of the highest number of UWC students and international students in the United States, Davis said, makes it an ideal school for attempting to raise the number of UWC students

Davis spoke about how his belief in education motivates his philanthropy and about how his retirement hastened his penchant for patronage.

“The purpose of the first 30 years of your life should be to focus on learning,” he counseled. “The next 30 years of your life should be to focus on earning, and the remaining 30 years of your life, if you’ve been fortunate, should be to focus on returning to help make the world a better place.

Davis’s “remaining 30 years” started in 2000, he said, when he started supporting UWCs and students who graduated from them.

Macalester’s UWC students were effusive in their praise for Davis.

Sami Saquer ’10 learned about the UWCs through an international committee based in his homeland, the Gaza Strip. He attended a UWC school in Norway.

“The opportunity that Shelby Davis gave me has changed my life 180 degrees,” he said.

Tanzania native Maliq Muro ’10 attended a UWC school in Swaziland.

“[Davis] opened up the world for me,” Muro gushed. “Philanthropists like him give me a chance that there’s still hope in the world.”

Kayton Parekh ’10 is a Montana native.

“Just being given the decision to go to the UWC was the best thing in the world for me,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to do that without [Davis’s] contribution.”

Rosenberg compared Davis’s contribution to a marriage.

“It is a marriage,” he said, “between one of the most generous and visionary philanthropic initiatives of our time and a college whose mission of international education has been longstanding, distinctive and beneficial to students from around the country and around the world.”

Davis agreed with Rosenberg’s vision of Macalester as a vessel for multicultural understanding in the world.

“You’ve got to learn to get along with the world,” he told The Mac Weekly. “We can respect differences and still get along.