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Bowders named Davidson professor

Anyone who knew Bill Davidson can tell you what an unpretentious and unfailingly generous man he was, qualities that are reflected in his gift to the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering.

Davidson chose to endow the William Andrew Davidson Professorship in Civil Engineering—the first-ever endowed professorship in the department—with a gift of $590,000—the bulk of his estate. And he named it after his father.

“My Uncle Bill had no children,” said Josh Billings, Davidson’s nephew who, along with his wife, Louise, has been working to shepherd the gift process. “He visited us often after his wife, Peg, passed away. He was such a giving person, a genuinely kind man, but he always stayed in the background.”

After serving in the U. S. Army Air Corps during World War II, Davidson attended MU, receiving a degree in business in 1949. Following in his father’s footsteps, a 1907 civil engineering graduate, he worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad. He retired at the time of his father’s death with the realization that he no longer needed to work at anything but what he most wanted: making life a little better for others.

In addition to tirelessly serving and supporting the First United Methodist Church of Jefferson City and the area chapter of the Boy Scouts of America, Davidson was instrumental in establishing Capitol Projects Inc. This job training and vocational rehabilitation service operates a sheltered workshop.

Billings, an engineer who made his career in the oil business, is impressed with his uncle’s altruistic vision and the great lengths Davidson went to make Capitol Projects a going concern.

“It’s a great success story. He always downplayed his involvement, but he was key in its success,” said Billings.

And his success continues.

By supporting a faculty member with an endowed professorship, Davidson has extended his legacy of caring and sharing to the hundreds of engineering students whose futures will be touched by that instructor.

Civil Engineering Professor John Bowders has been named the Davidson Professor.

When recommending Bowders for the professorship, Mark Virkler, civil engineering department chair wrote, “He has led the effort to move the MU geotechnical engineering graduate research and education program into a position of national prominence.”

Bowders’ colleagues from the civil engineering department, his wife, Patti Schnitzer, an MU assistant professor of nursing, Billings, and other representatives from the College of Engineering were on hand at a September luncheon when his appointment was formally announced.

“I am extremely honored to be named the Davidson Professor of Civil Engineering and at the same time humbled by the generosity and philanthropy of the Davidson family,” said Bowders. “ Training our future civil engineers is especially rewarding as they all leave MU with the talent and potential to make life better for others, and perhaps even become a philanthropist like Bill Davidson.”