It’s not often that employees of a national company revere an executive so much that they donate a huge sum of their own money to his favorite charity, but that’s exactly what happened at D.A. Davidson this spring.
Ian and Nancy Davidson’s friends and colleagues have so much respect for the couple and their passion for education, that more than 100 of them recently came together to raise over $150,000 to support the Davidson Honors College at the University of Montana.
The gift coincides with a celebration of Ian Davidson’s 60 years at the financial advising firm, D.A. Davidson, which was founded in Great Falls and now has 92 offices in 23 states, including a large office in Missoula.
Charitable contributions from the Davidsons over the last two decades have provided a building for the honors college, renovations and scholarships for honors students. This new gift will support a teaching fellow. In 2016, the couple donated $1.5 million to launch two new programs, a research and mentoring fellows program and the honors career development program.
“Ian and Nancy have been responsible for building one of the oldest and most distinguished honors colleges in the country,” said Brock Tessman, the dean of the honors college. “It’s so fitting to have the employees of D.A. Davidson recognize that contribution with their own contribution as an honor to Ian and as a tribute to our students. We couldn’t have a more perfect gift."
Tessman said he was thrilled at the generosity of the employees and struck by how many of them wanted to help.
"Even more important than the dollar amount is the number of employees who contributed," he said. "So we’re honored, our students are honored and it’s on to the next great chapter for the Davidson Honors College.”
Ian Davidson said the late former UM President George Dennison encouraged him to support an honors college.
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“Dennison was really an honors college enthusiast,” he recalled. “I wanted to do something for the University, and they’d never had an honors college. It’s worked out real well, frankly, for the hundreds or thousands of students and staff involved over the years.”
Davidson is a UM graduate and taught finance on campus at one point.
“I have a box at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, and all three of my children graduated from UM,” he said. “Supporting UM has been a real important thing for us.”
The Davidson Honors College is open to students of any major and provides special opportunities for students to enhance their learning and leadership skills within and outside the classroom.
The Davidsons both served on the UM Foundation Board of Trustees, and Nancy Davidson was board chair during a period of intense fundraising in the 1990s.
“The Davidsons have been incredibly generous in their communities,” said Kate Stober, the marketing and communications manager for the University of Montana Foundation. “They support everything from the Great Falls Symphony to the University of Montana. That ethos has been a big part of their company as well: Community involvement and caring are among D.A. Davidson’s core values."
She said the company donated $1.1 million to nonprofits in 2015 and that same year, employees also donated another $154,000 in personal charitable contributions that were matched by the company.
"How his colleagues came together to honor him is remarkable,” she said.