Established in 1837 by Presbyterians of North Carolina, Davidson is a liberal arts college dedicated to cultivating humane instincts and disciplined, creative minds. As a college that welcomes students, faculty, and staff from a variety of nationalities, ethnic groups, and traditions, Davidson values every kind of diversity, recognizing the dignity and worth of every person while providing a range of opportunities for worship, civil debate, and teaching that enrich mind and spirit. Davidson challenges students to engage in service to prepare themselves for lives of growth and giving.
At Davidson, the history of the college energizes campus life through traditions that connect current students with the college's rich heritage.
Honor Code Signing Day
Respect for the Honor Code has been a central philosophy to campus life, ensuring academic integrity and providing the foundation for the open environment in which Davidson students live and study. Campus commitment to the Honor Code brings with it special freedoms, ranging from the prevalence of take-home tests to unproctored, self-scheduled exams during every finals period.
The annual ceremony in which incoming students sign the Honor Code remains a distinctive moment in the first-year student experience, connecting them to the college's honor-bound past:
"Davidson frankly avows her belief that Character is more important than Education, that Sincerity, Honor, and Purity are more valuable than Knowledge..." wrote Pres. Henry Louis Smith in the Davidson College Bulletin in October 1904, adding "...true breadth of culture is found in the harmonious development of body, mind, and moral nature."
Davidson's 2010 Celebration of Honor and Integrity marked the 100th anniversary of a student-run honor system at the college, and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the student-run Honor Council. Davidson's Honor Code inspires students to graduate with a life-long commitment to integrity, one they carry with them far beyond the classroom and into lives of leadership and learning.
Eu & Phi Halls
Eumenean and Philanthropic Halls, constructed in 1849 and 1850 respectively, comprise part of Davidson's historical campus and are named for the first two student societies founded at the college, both of which still meet today. The Eumenean Society would debate with the Philanthropic Society across the quad, engaging in spirited conversation and intellectual discourse, out of which sprang the foundations for the Honor Code and other long-held Davidson values. Even notable student Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States and one-time member of the Eumenean Society, likely gave his first speech from the iconic Eu Hall balcony, before he went on to transfer and graduate from Princeton University in 1879.
Today, students keep the tradition alive: over Family Weekend during presidential election years, the Young Democrats and College Republicans debate across balconies about relevant issues, just as Davidson's earliest students did in the 1800s.
What once was a mandatory trial-by-fire for the incoming class lives on today as a celebration for first-year students and the Town of Davidson alike.
The Cake Race, established in 1930 by Davidson Coach Pete Whittle, helped him identify hidden track and field talent in the freshman class. Knowing that a mandatory 1.7 mile race around town in the hot Carolina sunshine would be a tall order, even for Davidson students, Coach Whittle came up with a compelling incentive: winners would receive a homemade cake of their own choosing.
The race has since become a Davidson trademark and a (voluntary!) part of the first-year experience, with members of the Davidson community faithfully donating the cakes every year and cheering on the racers.
More on Davidson's Rich History