When Davidson College tapped Carol Quillen from Rice University in Houston, Texas to become its 18th (and first female) President, her daughter Caitlin had just been accepted to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Little did I know our worlds were about to intersect. My daughter mBf and Caitlin met as newly-minted pledges at their sorority house and have been partners in academia, hi-jinx and travel ever since.
When mBf returned from visiting Caitlin in Davidson, she said of her home, Mom, you would LOVE it.
Indeed she knows me well.
Some of our most popular posts have been profiles of our Artists in Residence: Becky Jessee, Lindsay Cowles, Lisa Johnson, Catherine Southall and Annegret Massey. We were thrilled when Carol agreed to let us profile her as our first Educator in Residence and with perfect timing as many of us have back-to-school in the forefront of our minds.
President Carol Quillen, Educator in Residence
Davidson College was established in 1837 by North Carolina Presbyterians. The President’s home was constructed in 1836, prior to the opening of the college, and three major renovations have enhanced the livability and aesthetic of the home, including adding the stately pillared porch. The President’s home serves many constituents and purposes, but Carol is quick to emphasize its most important function is to be welcoming to all who enter its front
Davidson, located 19 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina, has an undergraduate population of 1850. Although not a giant in size, Davidson packs a lot of punch. It has a rich academic heritage and 25% of its students play a Division I sport.
Upon our arrival, Carol began our tour of the public rooms of the President’s home. When Carol took office and moved into the home, she hired Charlotte designer Teri Thomas to redecorate the home to suit her taste and needs.
Her favorite room is the Solarium,
note the stunning ceiling
which hosts meetings and dinners of all sorts. The afternoon of our visit the solarium was set for a large meeting.
Throughout the home, pieces from the Davidson College Permanent Art Collection are on display.
Carol hand-picked the art for the home from the collection, choosing contemporary works to balance the 19th century style of the structure.
Phil Spitbite, 1995 by Chuck Close (Spitbite is an etching technique; subject is contemporary classical composer Philip Glass.)
Two Dimensional Print of Casual Post-Post Modern Sculpture by Chris Johanson
Untitled by Hans Hofmann — Gouache on paper
Paintings, sculpture, photographs and outdoor installations from the permanent collection are embedded throughout campus because, as Carol writes in her Foreword to the book Davidson Collects, 100 Writers Respond to Art,
Art, which here at Davidson is installed throughout the campus, shapes this culture by consistently challenging our conventional categories of perception to explode our assumptions and make the familiar strange. Through art, we learn the limits of what we know and can know, even as we commit ourselves to a quest for the truth.
One piece from Carol’s personal collection hangs in the library, a lithograph by North Carolina artist Romare Bearden from his jazz series.
Jazz Series Lithograph by Romare Bearden.
We finished the tour of the formal rooms,
and Carol led us to lunch in the breakfast room, another of her favorite spaces in the historic house.
The in-house catering staff
described our luncheon fare: salmon on top of a trio of kale greens topped with a medley of 4 peppers, grape tomatoes, carrots and the best of all, homemade purple potato chips, dressed with a honey rosemary vinaigrette, all from the local farm operated by Davidson College.
The finale was coconut cream custard with local honey-infused blueberries.
Oh my. We felt like we were in a 5-star restaurant.
During lunch Carol described her involvement with President Obamas’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. The Council is charged with advising the President and Secretary of the Treasury
on how to promote financial capability among young Americans and encourage building the financial capability of young people at an early stage in schools, families, communities, and the workplace and through use of technology.
Naturally Alison and I listened with rapt attention since we are in the midst of shepherding our young adult children through the financial paces. I was glad to know Carol was involved and look forward to the recommendations offered by the Council.
We were enchanted by the beautiful place settings used for the meal, including this
Francis I silver service curiously monogrammed on the back and the monogrammed plates
The Carnegie Guest House
After lunch Alison and I visited the Carnegie Guest House to chat with Cissi Lyles, Manager of the Guest House, Davidson alumnae and de facto Davidson historian who gave us a tour of the historic building, once the Carnegie Library of Davidson College, which contained significant pieces in its decor.
Inside the Guest House ceilings soar
and a spectacular dual staircase
leads to eight unique and comfortable guest rooms upstairs, which await Davidson visitors.
Many rooms, like the one above, display art from the college’s collection. I was particularly enchanted with the Drawing Room, which contained
a Hellenistic storage amphora. The Drawing Room also houses the largest of all concert grand pianos, a Bosendorfer Imperial
complete with 9 extra bass keys in the sub contra octave, giving it 8 full octaves on the keyboard.
Our next-to-last stop was Cissi’s office. We studied the painting gracing the wall above her desk,
Hyacinths in Blue and White by Joan Mulligan, looking closely for the hyacinths in the background of the painting.
Before we embarked on our return trip to RVA, we made a visit to the Guest House’s charming powder room designed by Cissi.
With much gratitude we thank Carol Quillen, Cissi Lyles and Kendra Newman, Carol’s assistant, for a gracious and welcoming visit to Davidson College. We appreciate the glimpse into the life of a college president and the lovely home that supports President Quillen, Board, faculty, staff, alumni and students of Davidson.
August 18, 2014