Monday, April 18, 2011
Looking upon the new three-story modernized science complex that bears his name, the eighth president of SC State University, Dr. Leroy Davis, Sr., proudly says, “this building is phenomenal and exceeds my greatest expectations. It’s a fantastic place of discovery and learning.”
Serving as an annex to the original Hodge Hall, which was constructed in 1928 and named after former trustee, E.D. Hodge of Clarendon, S.C., the Leroy Davis, Sr. Science and Research Complex now stands fully constructed and serves as a testament to the years of hard work and dedication in which Davis was passionately involved during his presidency from 1996 to 2002.
Now, after years of planning and preparing, Davis will be joined by family, friends, colleagues, political leaders, members of the community and the SC State family on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 2 p.m. for the dedication of the new complex, which houses the Department of Biology and Physical Sciences and features an office tower, research space, two auditoriums, five conference rooms and state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories.
“It warms my heart to see this day come,” says Davis. “It’s an extremely high honor to have my name on this building and I will forever be indebted to the University for doing this.” He shared the historic journey that allowed him to now see this new edifice come to fruition. An Orangeburg native, Davis recalls playing on the campus of SC State University as a little boy. Years later, he found himself attending the University, sitting in classrooms of the original Hodge Hall. After graduating in 1971 with a B.S. degree in biology, he attended Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. and graduated with a M.S. degree in microbiology. At the tender age of 23, Davis returned to his hometown and became an assistant professor of biology at his Alma Mater, teaching in the same building he once studied in as a college student.
“I came back and I taught after I got out of graduate school and I enjoyed the teaching; I enjoyed the research and working with the students and I thought that was my complete career path. I was going to be an outstanding professor and I was going to be a good researcher and do all the things I learned in graduate school.”
Not too long after, however, Davis realized that he could make a profound difference in other capacities and decided to take on administrative roles at the University. In 1982, he became director of the Academic Counseling and Tutoring Program. He then worked in the Office of Institutional Self Studies for three years. He went on to hold the positions of vice provost for Academic Administration, vice president for Student Services, interim University president, and on April 10, 1996, he became the eighth president of SC State University.
During his six year tenure, Davis accomplished many feats. He increased annual giving from $419,000 in 1996 to $2.1 million in 2001-more than a 400 percent increase. He obtained accreditation of the School of Business by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the 13th Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in the nation to gain this status. He also obtained reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Additionally, Davis initiated a Bachelor of Science degree program in Nuclear Engineering, the first such program of its kind in the state of South Carolina. He also established a University Center of Excellence in Transportation and received more than $30 million in funding over the past five years; established a University Center of Excellence in Leadership and established the Savannah River Environmental Sciences Fields Station, the only such program in the United States devoted exclusively to undergraduate research. The Field Station has received awards from former vice president Al Gore and by the Forestry Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Davis developed the University’s Stateite Creed to codify the institution’s core values and belief. Additionally, he established the Staff Senate to represent the interests and concerns of staff employees. He was also instrumental in the development of the STATE Room at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, an extravagant reception/business center-unique among HBCUs; and funding and approval for the construction of privatized student housing ($35 million). Under his leadership, the University also saw tremendous improvement in deferred maintenance and other facilities to include: the construction of the new $9.5 million Fine Arts Center (1999), construction of the Leadership and Skills Development Center at Camp Harry Daniels (1998), construction of the Unity Wall for campus Greek-letter organizations (2000); and several renovations to campus facilities totaling $12 million to include Truth Hall, Dukes Gymnasium, Belcher Hall, Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium, Mitchell Hall and Felton Laboratory School.
Of those many accomplishments, his proudest would have to be the attainment of $10 million for the construction of the 57,000 square-foot, $17.5 million Leroy Davis, Sr. Science and Research Complex. This wonderful, awe-inspiring building, as Davis describes it, is undoubtedly near and dear to his heart as an advocate for the sciences.
“One of the things that was important to me while I was charged with looking out for the interest of the whole institution was ensuring that I did not forget about Hodge Hall. I did not forget about science and I did not forget about the needs. I remembered the conditions in Hodge Hall that we dealt with while still producing excellent students, still producing excellent research and how it consisted of a wonderful family of dedicated people. I also thought that being in the position I had been blessed to be in, that I could make a difference.”
He did just that. Even faculty, staff, students and administrators agree that it’s a new day for science and “their day has finally come,” a phrase Davis echoed during his tour of the new facility. “I’m just so pleased that the future looks bright for these students who are going to come to this building and learn and have their lives transformed just like I had mine,” he says.
Today, Davis still seeks to make an impact in service and education. He serves as executive director of Voorhees College’s Center of Excellence in Rural and Minority Health, designed to help persons in rural communities with health challenges to gain resources necessary to improve the quality of health. He serves on a number of foundation boards in which he assists with providing funding for non-profit organizations and other groups that benefit society. He also serves as a consultant with organizations such as the Southern Education Foundation, whose mission is to ensure fairness and excellence in education for all. He also assists HCBUs and minority-serving institutions with accreditation and other important factors.
Of his many notable accolades, according to Davis, this building dedication is “a culmination of life-long work, a culmination of childhood dreams becoming reality, and I’m very gratified to be able to have that part of my legacy come to fruition while I can see it. I could not have imagined it.”
For more information on the Leroy Davis, Sr. Science and Research Complex dedication, contact Ashley Elliott, assistant director of public relations, at (803) 533-3802 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.