West Virginia University officials today (Sept. 4) announced an $18.4 million gift from two Morgantown sisters, Gladys Gwendolyn Davis and Vivian Davis Michael, to the WVU Foundations”Building Greatness”campaign.

It is the largest private donation from individuals in WVU s history and targets $16.2 million to the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences. In honor of the women and their mother, Estelle Conaway Davis, the college was renamed the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences.

The remaining $2.2 million will benefit the Colleges of Law and Creative Arts and the new Downtown Library.

At an outdoor dedication ceremony on WVU s Evansdale Campus, friend and family attorney John Patrick Ball joined University officials in unveiling bronze plaques that will be displayed in the Agricultural Sciences Building.

“It was Gladys and Vivians mother, Estelle Conaway Davisexample of generosity and compassion, that led Gladys and Vivian to works of philanthropy,”said Ball.”Prudent investment of the inheritance left them by their mother and astute management of rental properties enabled the two women to support worthy organizations and to leave a lasting legacy for future generations. This major gift to benefit West Virginia University shows their commitment to the college, the animal and veterinary sciences program, to higher education, and especially to their beloved WVU .”

Ball said Gladys and Vivian were committed to providing the best possible veterinary care to their pets, which usually consisted of a family of three dogs and two cats. Gladys was survived by two 4-year-old Pekinese/pugs.

“They believed that they could support the quality of veterinary care in West Virginia by supporting programs that trained veterinarians,”said Ball, who contacted the Foundation and the College, beginning the association that led to the bequest and renaming.

WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. said,”This is an unbelievable day in the life of this University. The women whose name will grace this college, Gladys and Vivian Davis, were not only generous, but very compassionate individuals.

“Both of them attended West Virginia University and were active members of this communitywhether it was through involvement in the arts, affiliations with southern and colonial groups or activities associated with the local music club. To think that their love of animals, particularly their own pets, and their understanding of WVU s animal and veterinary programs led them to this decision, is just astounding. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”

Dean Cameron Hackney said the bequest to the Davis College will provide a number of forms of support, including:

  • Creation of the Davis-Michael Scholars Program in Pre-Veterinary Medicine, that includes undergraduate scholarships; faculty development programs and enrichment; the improvement of instructional facilities; technology and equipment; library enhancement; a program coordinator and staff support; and support of internships and seminars
  • Endowed professorships for each of the colleges five academic divisions (Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Family and Consumer Sciences, Forestry, Plant and Soil Sciences, and Resource Management) and general support of the College
  • Establishment of scholarships for WVU graduates attending veterinary school.

“This is a wonderful day for the faculty, staff and especially the students of the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences,”Dean Hackney said.”This extraordinarily generous gift will have a lasting impact on the future of our college, particularly insofar as creating and enhancing opportunities for our undergraduates.”

WVU Foundation President F. Duke Perry said the Foundation is grateful that Gladys Davis and Vivian Davis Michael recognized the importance of private support to West Virginia University in making such an extraordinary gift. Their gift, he noted, has enabled the Foundation to surpass the $170 million plateau in the”Building Greatness”campaign, a $250 million fund-raising effort being conducted on behalf of the University.

Perry said Gladys Davisestate provides funds for the Colleges of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences, Creative Arts and Law, plus the new Downtown Library, while Vivians estate was earmarked for the Davis College.

He added that during the campaign and prior to her death, Gladys Davis contributed another $1.38 million. Her gifts included the Conaway family farm, pre-veterinary student scholarships, funds for a class in companion animal care and a computer-assisted learning lab, all for the Davis College. The funds also supported renovation of the student and faculty lounges and enclosure of the veranda at the College of Law, and the renovation of two theaters, which now bear the sistersnames in the College of Creative Arts.

The Davis family gifts given to benefit WVU total $19.78 millionthe largest gifts by a family in the Universitys history.

The Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences is the oldest academic unit at WVU . The school opened its doors in 1867 as the West Virginia Agricultural College and adopted its current name in 1868. Twenty years later, WVU saw the opening of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in Morgantown.

One other college at WVU , the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, is named for a generous benefactor. The Eberly College was so named in 1993 to recognize the support of the Eberly family of Uniontown, Pa. The Eberly Family Trust and the Eberly Foundation have provided more than $11 million to WVU over the years.

Recently, the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources renamed its Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in honor of WVU alumnus Raymond Lane and his wife, Stephanie, in recognition of their gift of $5 million.

The Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism is named to honor its founding dean.

The Davis sistersgifts were made to the colleges through the WVU Foundation, a private non-profit organization, which is the designated agency to receive and administer gifts from private individuals and organizations for the benefit of West Virginia University and its affiliated organizations.

The”Building Greatness”effort is the largest capital campaign in the University’s history. It began in July 1998 and concludes in December 2003