Livingstone College’s new president focused on giving back

Published 12:05 am Sunday, October 23, 2022

By Brad Dountz

SALISBURY — When Dr. Anthony Davis was named Livingstone College’s 13th president last month, it was a culmination of all the hard work he’s put into serving and helping others for over two decades.

A Livingstone graduate, Davis has played a big part in efforts to make the college thrive. He earned a master of arts degree in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University in Minnesota, one of the only advanced degrees offered in this field. He thinks this helped him accomplish goals he has set for himself.

“Having a master’s degree in philanthropy and development, not only do you know the art of the ask, but you really are in tune with the psychology of your donors, really know how to build and sustain relationships,” he said. “I think that’s one of the key things of a philanthropic practitioner, understanding it’s all about relationships.”

Davis also earned a doctor of ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

“When I wanted to continue my education and my research, there wasn’t a Ph.D. in fundraising so the doctorate ministry degree was a good fit because it gave my the flexibility to expand my research,” Davis said.

For now, Davis wants to make sure Livingstone can flourish with what it has, but also to supplant its future as a place for higher education.

“To grow and to sustain the enrollment. To build a sustainable endowment” are goals, Davis said.

Before he was president, Davis helped the college get through the COVID-19 pandemic as chair of its task force and managed day-to-day operations. This made him ready for whatever challenges come his way.

“Managing COVID was like managing a moving target. So Livingstone College was one of the few HBCUs in this region that offered in-person academic instruction for every single semester during the pandemic. We took our break from March to August, but by August we were back in person. How did we do that? We had eight critical protocols that we developed and deployed. One of the key lynch pins in our COVID-19 response was asymptomatic testing,” Davis said.

He grew up in the foster care system where he eventually grew out of it at the age of 17. He then enlisted in the Air Force where he served for six years. After leaving the military, he went back to his home town of New Haven, Conn., where he worked as a health care worker at a local hospital.

“Serial reciprocity is my model of ministry. I believe that we are all sent here to make a contribution and in many cases you have to look back where you came from to look forward,” Davis said. “Less than three percent of emancipated youth in foster care go to college. Only one percent of us graduate. Less than one percent of us obtain a masters degree and earn a doctorate and I don’t know how many of us has ever been elevated to the office of college president.”

“To anyone who is in foster care and about to age out, education will be the key to their emancipation,” Davis said.

On Oct. 15, a shooting at Livingstone during a homecoming concert became the first challenge for a new president trying to do his best to ensure the safety of his students.

“You have to work with your students, your faculty and staff and you have to let them know that we’re going to be OK and we’re going to get through this,” Davis said.

Davis said he walked every residence hall the night of the shooting and the day after to talk with students so that they would be ready to get back to normal Monday morning. Livingstone has employed mental health councilors since the shooting for anyone who needs it. He also is bringing in experts in public safety on college campuses to help advise Livingstone during this time.

Even with all of his accomplishments and degrees, Davis still remembers who he is as he takes on the presidency of his alma mater over 38 “highly qualified candidates.” The board of trustees selected him unanimously, “and as an alumni it’s humbling,” Davis said.