Retired Chairman and CEO, Surface Protection Industries, Inc.
President, R. Davidson and Associates, LLC
Robert C. Davidson, Jr. formed Surface Protection Industries, Inc. (SPI) in 1978. Under his leadership, SPI became one of the largest African American-owned manufacturing companies in California, ranking in the top 100 on the Black Enterprise list of America’s top black-owned industrial/service companies.
Davidson has a strong entrepreneurial résumé. In the early 1970s, he headed his own management consulting firm and, prior to that, served as chief executive officer of Avant Garde Enterprises, a Los Angeles-based entertainment holding company.
In Boston, Davidson co-founded and served as vice president of the Urban National Corporation, a private venture capital company that was established to increase mainstream industry’s investment in minority-controlled businesses. The organization raised $10 million in capital from many Fortune 500 companies.
The entrepreneurial spirit of Davidson’s career path is also reflected in his commitment to community involvement. He is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Ray Charles Foundation and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the following organizations: Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. (NYSE); Broadway Federal Bank (NASDAQ); Cedars-Sinai Hospital Los Angeles; University of Chicago Graduate School of Business Advisory Council; The Huntington; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He is also Chairman Emeritus at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 1998, Morehouse College honored Davidson, one of its most distinguished alumni, by naming the President’s home and its executive center Davidson House. Davidson was the 1997 recipient of the Ronald H. Brown Award and the 1990 recipient of the Raoul Wallenberg Save the Children Award from the Shaare Zedek Medical Center Jerusalem. He was also named Black Businessman of the Year by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Black MBA Association and Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Association of Investment Companies.
Davidson earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College and his MBA from the University of Chicago. He is a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Morehouse College. In 2007, Davidson received the distinguished Benjamin E. Mays Award, which is named in honor of Morehouse College’s famous former President. Davidson and his wife, Faye, are parents of three sons, one of whom is an ArtCenter alumnus. The Davidsons are art collectors and Faye is a member of the Pasadena Art Alliance.
Davidson joined the ArtCenter Board of Trustees in 2004 and served as Chair of the Board for five-terms (2010-2020). He is the first African American to serve in this role at ArtCenter, and among the first African Americans to assume board leadership of a member institution within the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. Davidson was named Chair Emeritus in 2020.