November 11, 2016

Purdue School of Chemical Engineering to bear alumnus' name

Davidson eng. gift Charles and Nancy Davidson. (Photo provided) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue alumnus has given the university's School of Chemical Engineering a $20 million gift, and the school will now be named in his honor.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels on Friday (Nov. 11) announced the naming along with the gift from Charles D. Davidson and his wife, Nancy. Charles "Chuck" Davidson received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Purdue in 1972 and forged a career as an oil and gas industry executive.

"What more can be said about the loyalty of our alumni and their generosity?" said Daniels, who announced the gift during the President's Council Annual Dinner. "They are a great part of the reason that Purdue enjoys renowned status on the world stage of universities and what keeps students coming from across the globe. We can't say thank you enough to Chuck and Nancy Davidson."

The Davidsons' gift marks another step in the Ever True: The Campaign for Purdue University fundraising effort. The campaign's public phase was launched in October 2015, with the goal of raising $2.019 billion by 2019, the 150th anniversary year of Purdue's founding and the 50th anniversary year of alumnus Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon.

The Wall Street Journal and Times of Higher Education recently placed Purdue in a tie for fourth among U.S. public institutions and a tie for 37th among U.S. universities, respectively.

The Davidsons' gift will be through multiple endowments that will be allocated to specific purposes: recruiting, retaining and advancing top-tier faculty; initiating new teaching and research programs; supporting graduate students; and maintaining and updating research instrumentation. A strategic initiative fund will provide financial support, where the newly christened Charles D. Davidson School of Chemical Engineering needs it most, as determined by the school's head.

As part of their commitment to faculty, the Davidsons have established two named professorships, one of which will bear their names. The other is named for Arvind Varma, the Jay and Cynthia Ihlenfeld Head of Chemical Engineering until July 31, 2016.

"My chemical engineering education at Purdue helped me to become successful in the technically complex world of oil and gas exploration and development," Charles Davidson said. "Nancy and I also know that alumni support of higher education is critically important to enhance program quality and facilities. We want students to get the best possible education in facilities that are of the highest quality and in classes taught by outstanding faculty.

"Arvind's retiring as head was a driver for us to make this gift now so that the school will immediately begin seeing the benefits. Our funds will support the needs he identified as most important - things that will make a difference for a long period of time."

Sangtae Kim, the current Jay and Cynthia Ihlenfeld Head of Chemical Engineering, said the Davidsons' generosity will be transformative for the School of Chemical Engineering.

"Our students and faculty have extraordinary ideas that will change the world for the better. This gift will be the catalyst to support their research ideas and allow it to flower," he said. "It's also important to note the role of my predecessor, Dr. Arvind Varma, in bringing this opportunity to the attention of Chuck and Nancy."

Davidson's mother, Hazel Marguerite Terrell, attended Purdue, graduating in 1925. Chuck went on to earn his master's degree in management from the University of Texas at Dallas in 1980 and has spent more than 30 years in the oil and gas business. Currently a partner for a Houston-based private equity firm, he served as president, CEO and chairman of Noble Energy Inc. in Houston. He also worked in several top executive positions with Atlantic Richfield Co. At Atlantic Richfield, he helped form Vastar Resources Inc., which became one of the largest independent oil and gas exploration companies in the lower 48 states.

Davidson also serves numerous industry, academic and service organizations. His civic involvements in Houston have included the Boy Scouts of America, Society for the Performing Arts and Spindletop International, an oil industry youth charity.

Purdue College of Engineering Dean Leah Jamieson said Davidson is a shining example of a Boilermaker.

"He is a quiet leader who has achieved great things in his career, making a difference in his local community and on a global scale," she said. "The College of Engineering is proud to call him an alumnus, and we're very grateful that Chuck and Nancy's generosity will allow others to chart their own paths to life success."

The Davidsons met when Chuck was a student at the University of Texas at Dallas, where she also was a student. They said their gift was driven by their knowledge that education has played such an important role in their lives.

"I am honored that Purdue would associate my name with the School of Chemical Engineering," he said. "People down the road will have no idea who we were, but they will know that someone cared enough to make an investment in their future." 

Writer: Jim Bush, 765-494-2077, 

Sources: President Mitch Daniels,

Sangtae Kim, 765-494-5692,

Leah Jamieson, 765-494-5346,

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