Parents continue contributions as long-term commitment to education

Jan. 25, 2019 — Josh and Jennifer Davis are longtime advocates of the liberal arts.

The Wellesley, Massachusetts, couple both attended small liberal arts colleges – Josh is a Swarthmore alum while Jennifer graduated from Williams. All four of their kids (Jennifer and Josh married 10 years ago, each bringing two children to the marriage) followed in their liberal arts footsteps, including Grinnellians Katherine Tucker ’16 and Andrew Tucker ’21.

The couple believes in supporting institutions through ongoing donations, even after their children have moved on to the next stages in life. Katherine Tucker works as an admission counselor at Grinnell, and she too has made gifts to Grinnell.

“Just as the education our children received doesn’t stop benefiting them when they leave, the institution doesn’t stop needing resources for people coming in,” explains Jennifer, an attorney who investigates Title IX and other campus issues. “We think of giving as a very long term commitment to education and the value of it, rather than a transaction with respect to each student.”

Josh and Jennifer Davis
   Josh and Jennifer Davis

“It’s personal to us to support institutions that we think are making the world better,” adds Josh, who practices employment law and teaches at Northeastern University Law School. “We’re particularly interested in the mission of small liberal arts colleges, so we believe that making a difference and helping to preserve the notion of education as a broad ranging exploration of ideas, rather than immediate preparation for a monetary-oriented task, is critical.”

At Grinnell, the couple has earmarked their contributions to the Pioneer Fund; Student Health Services; the Center for Careers, Life, and Service; and the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE).

“My parents are both psychiatrists and my dad was chief of the psychiatric department at Harvard’s student health services, so I grew up hearing about the ways in which college students grapple with various mental health issues,” says Jennifer, explaining why student health was one area of support. They designated IGE after Andrew had such a great experience his first year at Grinnell traveling to Denmark, Cuba, and Costa Rica to study global health as part of Grinnell’s Global Learning Program Tutorial.

“It was an incredible bonding experience and amazing that he had that experience instead of learning entirely in the classroom,” says Jennifer.

The two also hope that by being engaged with institutions they care about – both serve on Swarthmore’s Parent Council, for example – their kids will understand the importance of contributing.

“We give a little bit to places that really matter,” says Josh. “One of our kids attended a farm-based boarding school and though he hasn’t been there for more than a decade, we give a small amount each year because that experience was transformative for him. We’ve been lucky to have those experiences, and we want to enable the places that have supported our good fortune.”

They also give because those who came before them gave.

“Our kids benefited from gifts that people made across time,” Josh says. “The ultimate endeavor of these institutions requires philanthropy and in some ways we’re just following those who gave before us.”

—by Anne Stein ’84

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