George T. Davidson Jr ’38

Davidson photoAn inspirational teacher, counselor, coach and principal for nearly four decades, George T. Davidson Jr. ’38 devoted his life to supporting others and serving the Common Good.  According to his godson, Dave Fitts ’64, Davidson had a profound and positive impact on everyone he met, including his roommate at Bowdoin, Fitts’ father Dave Fitts ’38.  High school classmates from Winchester, Massachusetts, Davidson and Fitts were as close as brothers until Fitts tragically died of pneumonia in 1944, on the day he was to serve as best man at Davidson’s wedding to his wife Fran.

After graduating from Bowdoin, Davidson, known as “Dave,” began his lifelong career as an educator at Kennett High School in Conway, New Hampshire. He started as a classroom teacher and coach. Later he served as the school’s youngest ever principal for 10 years. Missing direct contact with students, he returned to the classroom as a teacher and coach. In this capacity, students often reached out to him for guidance. This led to Dave founding and directing the school’s guidance department. Dave spent 33 years at Kennett, from 1939 to 1976, with a four-year break during World War II in which he served in the Army Air Corps. He was beloved by his colleagues, members of the community and especially his students.

A man with a boundless capacity for caring, Dave raised his two children, Raylene and Rick ’69, while tending to Fran, who developed multiple sclerosis in the 1950s.  He was devoted not only to his family but also to his community. In 1953 Dave and Fran founded an outdoor residential camp for boys, Camp Wakuta, which they ran until 1967.  In 1951, a brief stint as a fill-in pastor turned into a calling, and Dave served as lay pastor and later an ordained minister at several area churches for nearly 40 years.

Dave died in 2000, and his family, friends and community celebrated his many contributions to their lives.  In a eulogy, Dave’s former student, Hon. Francis Frasier, said of him:

This gentle, understanding, loyal, trustworthy, kind, humorous, pleasant, compassionate, congenial, encouraging, sincere, wise, enthusiastic and humble man by the sheer force of his monumental personal integrity and his God-given capacity to inspire, transformed thousands of young men and women who came under his tutelage, in their early teen years, into responsible, caring, honorable and decent adults.

The George T. Davidson Jr. ’38 Fellowship for the Common Good was established by Davidson’s godson, Dave Fitts ’64 and his wife, Bette, and the Davidson family including Rick ’69 and Jane Davidson, Raylene and Ron Newbury, and their son, Kevin Newbury ’00, in loving memory of Davidson and of his life in service to the Common Good, noting: 

Dave’s life was the embodiment of President McKeen’s call to use one’s education for the common good and not for private advantage.  By establishing the Davidson Fellowship, we hope to inspire generations of Bowdoin students to understand that a successful life of service is not necessarily defined by how much you give financially, but rather by how much you give of yourself to the betterment of others. 

Davidson Fellows
2018 - Joe Hilleary '20, Portland Housing Authority
Joe Hilleary at Portland Housing AuthorityJoe Hilleary '20 (Mathematics) served as the George T. Davidson Maine Community Fellow at the Portland Housing Authority. He divided his time between two aspects of the Residence Services department at PHA, spending half of his time working with the CHEETA Project youth leadership and community service program in the public housing communities, and the other half supporting the emPOWERme family stabilization and financial empowerment initiative. During his experience, Joe helped write a grant, partnered with another Maine Community Fellow at ProspertyME to developed a youth-oriented financial literacy curriculum, served summer lunches in the Kennedy Park neighborhood, and created a action plan to increase resident enrollment in emPOWERme.

"Working at the PHA has been an amazing opportunity to learn not just about this organization, but about the whole network of inter-linked service providers serving the low-income population of Cumberland County. I've had the chance to see firsthand how data can be used to increase accountability and improve outcomes, while also being able to engage in direct service through volunteering in neighborhood study centers."

2017 - Julianna Burke '18, ArtVan
Julianna Burke - DavidsonJulianna Burke worked with ArtVan, a mobile arts therapy organization whose mission is to provide a creative and collaborative environment to encourage youth who have little or no arts access to fully express their imaginations, relationships and experiences within themselves, among their peers and across their communities. The majority of her time at ArtVan was spent in the organization’s Neighborhood Program, working directly with youth artists in under-resourced communities in Bath, Brunswick, Lewiston, Auburn, and Biddeford. Working alongside a Teaching Artist and licensed Art Therapist, she learned technical artistic skills and interpersonal techniques to help ArtVan best deliver its therapeutic programming. She learned how to give artistic demonstrations, lead grounding check-in activities, and support youth to create a safe and collaborative environment.