March 28, 2018, BY Beth Kaszuba

Frank Davis '82, P'13 sits on a bench on Bucknell's campus.
Frank Davis '82, P'13. Photo by Gordon Wenzel

Frank Davis '82, P'13 embraces challenge and believes that overcoming adversity builds character.

However, Davis, who rose from what he describes as a "rough side" of Washington, D.C., to leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies before launching his own successful business, is also committed to smoothing the path for future generations of Bucknell students.

A recent $5 million gift from Davis will support the construction of Academic East and a new building to house the Kenneth W. Freeman College of Management, as well as fund diversity initiatives, which are close to Davis' heart.

"My freshman roommate, Vergel Blake '82, and I were two of perhaps only six African-American electrical engineering majors who graduated from Bucknell over a 10-year period," said Davis, who, with a partner, launched the Birmingham, Ala.-based Horizon Group in 2001. "When I was a student, diversity meant trying to make people of color more comfortable on campus. Since then, it has evolved into a multifaceted endeavor woven into the fabric of the institution."

Bucknell President John Bravman said the University will recognize Davis' generous gift by naming one of the South Campus Apartment buildings for him. Davis Hall adjoins the wall displaying the University's Solidarity Creed and houses the Muslim Prayer Room, created in 2017 to provide a dedicated gathering space for members of Bucknell's Muslim community.

"Frank's gift is a testament to Bucknell's commitment to fostering a more diverse and including community, which is among the University's foremost priorities," said Bravman. "His leadership in this area will bolster those efforts and help us continue to build an even stronger Bucknell for all."

Davis, who has served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, was a resident assistant and student government representative; and a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, the Black Student Alliance and the Association of Bucknell Black Engineers. After holding managerial and director-level positions at companies including Westinghouse, Honeywell and Johnson Controls, he formed Horizon Group with business partner Steve Jager. The firm, which procures commercial materials and manages projects for clients such as Honda and Volkswagen, employs a diverse staff of nearly 100 individuals.

Davis noted that his gift is provided in gratitude for the outstanding education he received at Bucknell, and to honor and build upon Bucknell's ongoing efforts to support diversity, dating back to the admission of the University's first African-American graduate, Edward McKnight Brawley, Class of 1875.

"He graduated almost 100 years before many other institutions in the United States grudgingly decided to admit students of color," Davis said. "Through it all, Bucknell did the right thing."

Georgina Dodge, associate provost for diversity, equity & inclusion, said Davis' gift will have a direct impact on students at a time when forging a stronger, more diverse campus community is an especially high priority.

"In 2014, Bucknell implemented its first five-year Diversity Plan, which was a highly intentional approach to advancing the University's diversity and inclusion efforts," Dodge said. "This gift will help us continue evolving and supporting a campus culture that embraces diversity as a core value, enacted by all members of the Bucknell community."

Davis said he is pleased to be part of the effort to ensure that all Bucknell students graduate ready to work in a diverse, global society.

"I want to send a message that we need to embrace and rejoice in our diversity — and to say thank you to the University and the people who made me what I am today," he said. "I also want people to look back someday and say, 'He left the University a better place than when he arrived.' "