L-R: ArtCenter President Lorne Buchman and Board Chair Emeritus Bob Davidson

podcast / president / college-news
September 30, 2020
Produced by: Christine Spines

Change Lab Episode 36

Board Chair Emeritus Bob Davidson on Rising Above Segregation through Persistence and Resistance

There is something almost poetic about beginning this season, dedicated to amplifying Black voices, with today’s interview with Bob Davidson, who recently stepped down from his post as Chairman of ArtCenter’s Board of Trustees.

Bob Davidson
Bob Davidson

We’re at a watershed moment. I lived through Jim Crow of the 50’s. I lived through the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s and 70’s. This is different.

Bob DavidsonBoard Chair Emeritus
Bob Davidson with ArtCenter Alums
Bob Davidson with 2019 ArtCenter Young Innovator Award winner Ini Archibong BS 2012.

Bob was instrumental in my decision to assume my current role as President of ArtCenter. And over the past eleven years, our collaboration has been among the most profoundly transformative of my entire career. Our bond transcended our professional roles (for all intents and purposes, he was my boss) and became something much richer and deeper, rooted in our shared values and an almost spiritual commitment to manifesting the College’s mission statement: learn to create, influence change.

And change we did. In partnership with Bob, we launched two iterations of a master plan that prioritized long-term sustainability and diversity. The College has grown in many important ways thanks to his contributions. But there’s still much work to be done, which we discuss at length in today’s conversation.

Bob Davidson with President Obama
Bob Davidson with President Obama

Even though we’ve known each other intimately for over a decade, our candid conversation was revelatory. I hadn’t known the extent of the racism he faced growing up in the Jim Crow south. Nor was I aware of the subtle bias he experiences in his daily life now. At the same time, he confirmed many of the qualities and achievements I’ve long admired – his self-made success at the highest levels of business and his steadfast unwillingness to let anyone stand in the way of progress —his or anyone else’s for that matter.

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