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21 Years From the Rear-View Mirror

Retiring Library Dean Frieda Davison looks back on an eventful career.


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Frieda Davison
When I was asked to write my reflections on my 21-year career here at USC Upstate, memories came flooding through my brain.  Sorting through them became very much like packing my house to prepare for my upcoming move to my home state of Virginia – sort, preserve, shred, purge, and cherish. How does one capsulize 21 years into an essay of a few hundred words? I began by thinking about the various university administrations. I’ve served five Chancellors and will miss my sixth Chancellor by one day. I’ve served eight Provosts (although at first they were only called Senior Vice Chancellors for Academic Affairs). I’ve watched the library grow in space (never did get that new building I was hired to build) but we have increased the footprint of the library in the existing building to almost twice what it was when I arrived. Completion of the latest renovations will also be after I leave, but I’m proud of the changes we are making. Thanks to additional hires, we also now have in place a roster of faculty and staff who can serve the university’s needs for several years. In reviewing the past 21 years, however, I think what stands out the most is how we come together as a university community (and as a university family) in times of crises and of celebration. We have had many of each, but I’ll highlight just two.

Former Chancellor John Stockwell, who the year before Upstate's 40th anniversary helped guide the campus through a difficult financial period without reducing staff.

The financial crisis of 2007-2008 was one of the scariest times for our campus. Colleges and universities throughout the state (and nation) were slashing budgets, including laying off or furloughing personnel. Endowments plunged, state legislative support declined, and tuitions were raised in response. But in a university-wide meeting one afternoon, our then-Chancellor John Stockwell announced he had no plans to lay off or furlough any of the Upstate family. He was putting personnel first, recognizing that those who would suffer the most were the very ones who could withstand it the least. He explained we would have to do our part, though, by conserving what funds we did have and freezing all vacant positions, including any that came open in the next 12-18 months. And it worked. There were no layoffs or furloughs. We survived, recovered, and flourished. The celebration that comes to mind was our university’s 40th anniversary, when we acknowledged not only the university’s founding in 1968, but also what was going on that year – some of the fiercest fighting of the Vietnam War. Probably the most memorable of our commemorative events was bringing “The Wall That Heals” to campus. This is a smaller scaled replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. Two veterans support motorcycle groups, Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard, escorted the tractor-trailer carrying the wall, and all along the route, adults and schoolchildren lined up with “Welcome Home” signs and waved flags. The arrival at the Upstate campus was quite the sight – the buildings shook from the sounds of 1,300 motorcycles!

 

During Upstate's 40th anniversary, a smaller scaled replica of the Vietnam War Memorial was brought to campus, drawing more than 17,000 visitors.
At the end of the four days, more than 17,000 people had visited the wall. The campus had come together to celebrate 40 years of existence and paid tribute to the young men who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. I think that event was the one that will stand out forever in my memory as the penultimate experience. I am grateful to have been a part of it, and of many other aspects of the university.