Three families, three gifts, untold impact
The reasons people give are as varied as the individuals making the gifts. Some make financial commitments to Furman to remember a loved one. Some give to advance a program or major of study. Still others see financial giving as a way to perpetuate what they deeply believe in. But no matter the specific motivation, each donor gives because they want to invest in something – and a future – that’s much bigger than themselves.
For Henry Barton and Melanie (Dodd) Barton, both members of the class of 1984, an investment in The Furman Advantage is what drives their gift earmarked for scholarship support and for those with financial need.
Their backgrounds set the stage for how they would make decisions on giving decades later. Henry, a Greenville, South Carolina, native and political science graduate, comes from a long line of Furman alumni, including his father, grandfather, great aunt, uncle and many cousins. Political science and history alumna Melanie, on the other hand, is a first-generation graduate from Alpharetta, Georgia. Their children – Chandler and Hannah – graduated Furman in 2013 and 2018, respectively. Chandler married Elizabeth Koppang, who graduated in 2013.
The Furman Advantage framework as it’s known today didn’t exist in the mid-80s, but elements of it did, such as study away and a chance to have meaningful relationships with professors.
Henry remembers having spirited discussions with Professor Emeritus of Political Science Don Aiesi and Don Gordon, professor of political science and executive director of The Riley Institute, who encouraged Henry to take an internship through the Washington Center in D.C. – a post that would have life-long repercussions, both personally and professionally.
Melanie also participated in a Washington Center internship, and that’s how the two met. They became engaged after a Bell Tower proposal by Henry in 1986 and married in 1987.
The Capitol Hill internship also informed Henry’s later foray into political life as he served Congressman Carroll A. Campbell, Jr., who became governor of South Carolina. Later, after working as a utility lobbyist, Henry launched his own consulting firm focusing on utility and renewable energy issues.
On the advice of William Montgomery Burnett Professor of History Marian Strobel, Melanie pursued a master’s in public policy analysis at Duke University. After graduating in 1986, she moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where she has worked in education policy for the S.C. General Assembly and now for Gov. Henry McMaster.
Her desire to help first-generation students and others with financial need at Furman meshes with her work ambitions.
“Advancing educational opportunities is my career and passion for all children, but especially for children who must overcome significant financial barriers to achieve their personal educational goals,” she said.
Together, the Bartons hope their gift will be transformational.
“We hope our long-term investment will transform the personal and professional trajectory of students for years to come, just like the Furman experience changed us,” said Henry. “We look forward to meeting the scholarship recipients whose lives will enrich and bless ours.”
You could say Chairman P. Edwin Good, now in his 14th year on the Furman Board of Trustees, is a fixture on campus. You’d also be correct in saying the 1967 Furman history major and his wife, former board member and French alumna Peggy Ellison Good ’67, are committed to a life of giving in terms of their time, talent and financial resources.
Ed’s service to the Greenville Community – about 40 years – is marked by his more than 15 years on the board at Hollingsworth Funds, a major Furman University benefactor, and scores of other governing bodies dedicated mostly to children, education and social services concerns.
For Furman, Ed and Peggy have served as class agents for fundraising and have been heavily involved in reunion activities. Ed also served many years on the Paladin Club board and on the Furman Advisory Council.
The two met as freshmen in a French class at Furman. They married in 1966 during their senior year then went to graduate school at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where they both earned Master of Arts in Teaching degrees.
As freshly minted educators, they taught school in Charlotte, North Carolina, and in Rome, Georgia, before returning to the home of their alma mater in 1971, when Ed took a position in Furman’s development office as director of alumni programs for a couple of years.
Successful ventures in commercial real estate financing, then commercial real estate development came next for Ed, founder of Hampton Development Company.
But it was Ed’s time in Furman’s development office that led to so many board seats.
“People heard I was involved in the fundraising business, so they thought, ‘Hey, this guy would be a great board member or a great committee member, because he’s actually raised some money and he’s not afraid of it,’” Ed said, laughing.
Except that now and in years past, he and Peggy are the ones doing the giving.
Their most recent gift isn’t fully fleshed out, said Ed, but he expects half will go toward funding campus operations and the remaining half will probably be for student financial aid.
Multiple financial contributions from the Goods over the years have bolstered the Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection, the James B. Duke Library, the tennis program and others.
But for all their generosity, the Goods remain humble.
“We’ve tried to do what we could,” said Ed. “We think Furman does a great job. We think people who finish Furman have a good experience and come out caring about others and wanting to serve.”
He applauds the Heller Service Corps, the Cothran Center and other campus organizations that provide outlets for social good.
Parents of three sons who graduated Furman in 1993, 1996 and 1997, the Goods continue to believe in Furman’s approach, especially what they see in The Furman Advantage and its deliberate focus on study away, mentorship and undergraduate research opportunities for students.
“You read about these young alumni and how they’ve done great things,” said Ed. “It’s obvious to us that Furman is making a difference in the world, and that’s something we want to support.”
Furman President Elizabeth Davis and First Gentleman Charles Davis are longtime supporters of higher education. Their latest and most substantial gift ever comes amid a pandemic that has turned academe and just about everything else on its head. But despite the uncertainty, or maybe because of it, they are even more committed to helping deliver the rich Furman experience to “any student who wants it,” Elizabeth says, “because we truly believe in what Furman has to offer.”
Established as the Davis Family Scholarship, the gift is set up so that it can continue in perpetuity. The majority of the gift is slated for student scholarships with some funds set aside for emerging campus projects such as the Joseph Vaughn Plaza, which will be unveiled April 16.
The Davis’ philanthropic journey began in the late 1980s when the couple crossed paths at a seminar while Elizabeth was working on her Ph.D. at Duke University and Charles was working toward his doctorate at UNC Chapel Hill. After a year of courtship, the two married in 1989.
In the early 90s, Charles joined the faculty at Baylor University, and Elizabeth followed in 1992, moving through the ranks from acting chair of the accounting department at her alma mater, to vice provost for financial and academic administration, to interim provost, to executive vice president and provost in 2010.
On her way to becoming the top administrator for the 1,000-member faculty representing 11 schools and colleges, Davis was witness to a tumultuous time in Baylor’s history, including financial woes, tenure battles and even a murder investigation involving athletics.
Her appointment to provost was said to have “lifted the campus community” and was the catalyst for righting the ship. “She was the center of a healing process” at the university, said Tiffany Hogue, Davis’ chief of staff at Baylor, according to a 2014 article in Furman magazine.
After 22 years at Baylor and taking the reins for a revamped comprehensive strategic plan there, she “gave herself permission” to investigate leadership outside the university.
Becoming Furman’s 12th president in 2014 – and first female president – Davis leads from a different perspective.
As Furman parents, she and Charles know firsthand the impact The Furman Advantage can make, and they want the same experiences for others.
“Our gift demonstrates how much we believe in Furman and the power of education to transform students’ lives. I would encourage others who want to see Furman continue to make a difference to consider helping from a place of philanthropy,” she said. “We are happy, in some small way, to be able to help alleviate the burden on students and their families.”