During Reunion 2009, the already impressive Art Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges were considerably enhanced by the dedication of the Clarence “Dave” Davis Jr. ’48 Gallery at Houghton House.
Amidst vigorous dancing to the sounds of the Oscar-Petersonian jazz performed by Bob Mastellar ’60, Al Scheeren ’60, Steve Venuti ’71 and their band, alums walked the new gallery space of Houghton House. They danced, reminisced and admired the gallery-in-progress, which features lithographs by noted artists Lautrec, Bellows and Rosenquist, and a recent Jasper Johns addition donated by George Abraham ’59.
“This is great-I tried to get in here before, but this was as far as I got,” joked one Hobart alumnus at the entrance, recalling the years when Houghton House was a women’s residence.
“Bittersweet,” was how a William Smith alumna characterized the evening. “Our john–the bathroom–is gone!” she said. “It’s weird. Exciting, but weird.”
During his dedication address, President Mark D. Gearan explained that, “for decades, the Colleges have been steadily building a remarkable and ever-growing collection of art, ranging from the Realism of the late 19th century to the abstract works from the end of the 20th century.”
“Tonight,” said Gearan, “we are celebrating the renaissance of Houghton House with a new gallery space. We’re fortunate to have a wonderful alumnus who has provided important support to create a secure space for the Colleges’ own collection as well as outside exhibitions. He shares our vision that Houghton House, Katherine D. Elliott Studio Arts Center and the Goldstein Family Carriage House must be complemented with a first-class gallery worthy of our student work and important exhibitions.”
“But wait, wait! There’s more,” Provost Teresa Amott lightheartedly reminded the audience. “Dave’s significant commitment to the Visual Arts at these Colleges provides not only a new space, but endowment support for the space, which covers some of the mundane things–like insurance, for instance–but also more elevated things like catalogs and outside exhibitions.”
The Davis Endowment for Support of the Visual Arts will enable HWS to host important exhibitions on campus and provide necessary funding to develop resources that complement the exhibitions and enhance their educational value.
In addition to the endowment and the support to renovate the gallery space, Davis plans to endow, through his estate plans, The Clarence A. Davis ’48 Chair in Visual Arts, the first of its kind in the arts at HWS.
“I’m a very proud alumnus,” Davis said. “I’m proud of what the Colleges have done for me and proud of what they’re going to do for students. I want to see more of this–more support of the fine arts. We’ve got the art. Let’s give it!”
Davis is president and chief executive officer of Queen City Florist & Greenhouse/Davis Garden Town Inc., which he began in 1954 in Amherst, N.Y. A proponent and sponsor of youth athletics, particularly track and field and bodybuilding, he has served as the Niagara Association Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) president and delegate to its annual convention every year since 1956, and was inducted into the AAU’s Hall of Fame in 1995, as well as the National Amateur Bodybuilders Association USA.
A Buffalo native, Davis majored in chemistry and was a member of Sigma Chi and the Herald. After graduating from Hobart, he served in the U.S. Navy and then earned a master’s in plant pathology from Cornell University.