MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University officials received an $18.4 million gift from two Morgantown sisters, Gladys Gwendolyn Davis and Vivian Davis Michael, the largest private donation from individuals in WVU.
Of the donation, $16.2 million is earmarked for the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences. In honor of the women and their mother, Estelle Conaway Davis, the college was renamed the Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences.
The remaining $2.2 million will benefit the Colleges of Law and Creative Arts and the new Downtown Library.
Friend and family attorney John Patrick Ball said the two sisters were committed to providing the best possible veterinary care to their pets, which usually consisted of a family of three dogs and two cats. Gladys was survived by two 4-year-old Pekinese/pugs.
“They believed that they could support the quality of veterinary care in West Virginia by supporting programs that trained veterinarians,” said Ball, who contacted the foundation and the college, beginning the association that led to the bequest and renaming.
Both sisters attended West Virginia University.
The Davis family gifts given to benefit WVU total $19.78 million – the largest gifts by a family in the university’s history.
The Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences is the oldest academic unit at WVU. The school opened its doors in 1867 as the West Virginia Agricultural College and adopted its current name in 1868. Twenty years later, WVU saw the opening of the West Virginia Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station in Morgantown.
About the family. Gladys Davis attended WVU and worked for the United States government for 34 years, first at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, then with the Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.
She was an avid supporter of WVU, providing scholarships for preveterinary students, underwriting courses in companion animal care and funding a computer laboratory in the college and a reading room in the new library.
She also supported renovation projects in the Colleges of Law and Creative Arts. In addition, theaters in the Creative Arts Center bear the sisters’ names. She died Jan. 3, 2001.
Vivian Davis Michael earned bachelor’s degrees in education and home economics and a master of arts degree – all from WVU. She taught social studies in the Monongalia County school system for 41 years.
She was once president of the American Association of University Women and was a member of the WVU Alumni Association and Emeritus Club. She died Jan. 6, 1998.
The sisters were descendants of John Davis, one of the first lot owners of Morgan’s Town in 1775.