By Courtney Such and Bryan Betts, News Editor and Editor-in-Chief
Last Thursday, Furman announced that Dr. Elizabeth Davis of Baylor University will serve as the university’s next president, and online and on campus, many students, faculty, and staff have expressed their optimism for what Davis’s selection might mean for the university’s future.
At the student reception for Davis, a crowd of mostly juniors and seniors gathered to meet Furman’s President-elect, who moved around the room introducing herself to students.
Junior Luke Christie was among those at the reception and said he felt it was important to meet Davis because “administrators are a big part of what makes the institution one.” His first impression of the new president was positive.
“She’s very personable, easy to have a conversation with, genuinely interested in getting to know students,” he said.
For many, Davis’s appointment represented the promise of administrative stability following several years of quick presidential turnover.
“I guess it’s exciting because we have someone who wants to stick with us,” said Junior Christina Bellino. “She seems very invested in getting to know Furman.”
For senior Ben Wagner, the news of Davis’s selection reassured him that his soon-to-be alma mater is on a good course as he prepares to graduate.
“As we’re leaving, I wanted to make sure the university’s going forward, and now I’m confident it’s in good hands,” he said.
“It’s a very historic moment, first woman president at Furman,” he added, echoing the enthusiasm that many students have expressed for Davis on Twitter.
Following the student reception, the university hosted a well-attended reception for faculty and staff, who formed into a rough line to meet the President-elect after opening remarks by Davis and Faculty Chair Joseph Pollard.
Kathy Everhart, who works as the cashier in the Student Business Center, said she thinks Davis is very qualified for the position, particularly because of her background in finance.
“That’s what I noticed first thing is that she has an accounting degree,” Everhart said. “I thought that would really benefit the university. Not only will it move forward with the financial part of it, but she’ll keep a lid on the expenses as well.”
Everhart said Davis asked faculty and staff to tell her what they thought was the most important thing for her to know about Furman and that she told Davis that Furman is a family-oriented university focused on the betterment of the students.
History professor Timothy Fehler studied at Baylor as an undergraduate and said that, though his time at Baylor did not overlap with Davis’s tenure, he knows faculty at the university who have praised Davis for her promotion of the liberal arts and recent implementation of a strategic plan. Davis, he said, was credited for improving faculty morale and leading Baylor out of a recent difficult period.
Fehler reflected on the similarity between Baylor and Furman as institutions, saying that though Baylor is much larger, the university shares with Furman an emphasis on teaching and mentoring.
“That was what I loved about Baylor,” he said. “That’s why I came to Furman.”
As Furman’s Director of Undergraduate Research and Internships, Fehler said he also hoped that Davis would be able to continue to promote research without neglecting teaching.
“She has interests in the same things I’m passionate about, so I’m hopeful that we can continue to build on those — engaging the liberal arts and promoting undergraduate teaching and mentoring,” he said.