Rev. Brenda H. Tapia, Former Associate Chaplain and Founding Director of the Love of Learning Program

Rev. Brenda H. Tapia, Former Associate Chaplain and Founding Director of the Love of Learning Program

The Reverend Brenda H. Tapia passed away on February 5, 2020.

A beloved mentor, teacher and friend to countless Davidson College alumni, Rev. Tapia passed away earlier today. She joined Davidson College in 1985 to work part-time as Davidson’s first African American chaplain, was promoted to a full-time position a year later and served as founding director of the Love of Learning program for two decades. She left an indelible mark on many of us.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, February 14 at Davidson College Presbyterian Church in the Sanctuary (100 N. Main Street, Davidson):

11:00 a.m. Visitation
12:00 p.m. Funeral

A reception will be held following the service in the Congregation House (218 Concord Rd, Davidson).

“Beauty am I
Spirit am I
I am the infinite within my soul
I can find no beginning
I can find no end
All this I am.”

Professor of Biology Patricia Ann Peroni

​Patricia Ann Peroni, beloved professor and mentor, avid cyclist and hiker, enthusiastic kayaker, skilled knitter, and great friend to many died on December 24, 2019, of lung cancer.  

Pat was born on December 22, 1956, in Saranac Lake, NY to George and Frances Peroni.  Both her parents were WWII veterans and taught at Paul Smith’s College in Saranac Lake in forestry and culinary arts respectively.  Pat earned her BA in biology summa cum laude from SUNY Plattsburgh and a MLS from SUNY Albany.  

During her first job as a librarian at Bucknell University, she earned an MS in biology and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in botany from Duke University.  After a year at UNC Greensboro, she began teaching in the Biology Department at Davidson College in 1992, where she developed many courses in ecology, biostatistics, plant biology, environmental science, and introductory biology.  

Students especially loved her Dendrology course because it involved extensive field work opportunities to learn from trees.  She was also instrumental in developing and supporting Davidson’s Environmental Studies program.

Dr. Peroni’s research program focused on seeds and plants.  She published studies on the wildflower white campion, honeysuckle, maple trees, and ants.  Getting out into the woods to see the dynamics of the natural world delighted her.  She enthusiastically passed on her great appreciation for plants to her many students, colleagues, and friends. 

Pat particularly loved just being outdoors.  She became a proficient kayaker and was an avid hiker and cyclist.  She also kept a home in Galax, Virginia, so she could spend more time in the mountains.  She enjoyed creative craft projects and often visited the Chestnut Creek School of the Arts where she volunteered. 

Dozens of babies in and beyond Davidson have been warmed by her botanically accurate knitted hats resembling grapes, berries, lemons, tomatoes and more (complete with stems and leaves). 

Pat’s civic service focused on the Davidson Lands Conservancy, where she served two terms as a board member and mentored survey projects to identify and catalogue local plants.  She also willingly took on more mundane tasks involving the annual Run for the Green to support DLC’s work. 

Pat was predeceased by her parents and her older brother, Paul, who died at age five, and two much loved dogs, Hobo and Zoe.  She is survived by her dear brother Luke, his wife Jules, their children Colter and Whitney, as well as Pat’s adored pets, Palma and Jesse. 

A celebration in honor of Pat’s life will be held on Saturday, March 21, 2020, from 2:00-4:00 pm at Lake Campus.

Many will recall Pat as funny, innately generous, smart, witty, and forgiving.  Her laugh brightened our days.  Her courage and clarity of purpose at the end of her life is an inspiration to the many friends who banded together to help her navigate her final months. 

She is deeply mourned by family, colleagues, students, and friends. 


Ava Spencer, Former First Lady of Davidson College

Ava Clayton Clark Spencer of Davidson, N.C., beloved wife and steadfast partner of the late Samuel R. Spencer Jr., died on August 20, 2019. She was 94 years old.

A woman of extraordinary intellect and broad education, Ava was one of the seven children of Dr. Frank E. Clark and Ava Clark. She was born on February 25, 1925, in Grundy, Virginia, where her father, a Presbyterian minister, served as a “domestic missionary” in this rural area, founding the Presbyterian School for local children.

Her father’s work as a minister and her mother’s as a teacher instilled in Ava a profound sense of the value of education. Always a brilliant student, she completed high school at age 15 and entered Virginia Intermont College before transferring to Mary Washington College.

In May of 1944, after graduating from Mary Washington, Ava began working at Oak Ridge, Tenn., as staff support for the Manhattan Project, the top-secret development of the atomic bomb that ended World War II.

Then came two years of graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where Ava was the first woman to teach a course at the Wharton School, as an instructor in political science. Her studies at Penn led to a one-year visiting fellowship in the Government Department at Harvard. That’s when a chance meeting changed the course of her life.

At a tea hosted by the Harvard Presbyterian Chaplain in February 1948, Ava met Sam Spencer, a World War II veteran in Army Intelligence who attended Harvard on the GI bill and completed his doctorate in American Social History. After their first date, a lecture by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, Sam told his roommate to start looking for someone new to share quarters.

“Why?” the roommate asked.

“Because I just met the girl I’m going to marry,” Sam said.

On August 28, 1948, Ava and Sam Spencer were married in Abingdon. They spent the next 65 years together, until Sam’s death on October 16, 2013.

That marriage also meant a choice for Ava, who turned down a fellowship to study the nature of radical politics in Chile in pursuit of her Ph.D.

After the birth of their first son, Samuel Reid Spencer III, in April of 1950, Sam and Ava moved to Davidson, where Sam served as assistant to President John Cunningham and later as Dean of Students. Their early years together in Davidson brought the addition of daughters Ellen Blakeney Spencer and Ava Clayton Spencer.

In 1957, they moved to Staunton, Virginia, where Sam served as President of Mary Baldwin College until 1968. Years later, Mary Baldwin dedicated the Samuel & Ava Spencer Center for Civic & Global Engagement, aptly recognizing Ava’s role in a partnership that helped elevate the stature of the small women’s college in the Valley of Virginia.

A second son, Frank Clark Spencer, was born in September of 1960. During the summers of their tenure at Mary Baldwin, Sam and Ava regularly led Brownell Tours of college students to Europe, including their own children in the exposure to different countries and cultures.

In 1968. Sam and Ava and their children returned to Davidson, where Sam served as president for 15 years, with Ava as the consummate partner in the intellectual life of the college and the architect of the warm and generous hospitality of the President’s House.

In 1983 their journey together took them to Richmond and the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges and ultimately back to Davidson in 1988, first to a house on Lorimer Road—the same street on which they lived when they first came to Davidson in 1951—and finally to The Pines, the retirement home they had helped to found years earlier.

In 2009, a gift to Davidson from close friends Marcus and Carole Weinstein established the Spencer-Weinstein Center for Community and Justice, honoring the service, leadership, and generosity of both couples.

The marriage of Ava and Sam Spencer was the essence of unwavering love and respect, a perfect blend of two human beings ideally suited to each other. Straightforward and practical on the one hand, Ava also possessed a ready wit and a mischievous sense of humor. But her special gifts were the kindness and love she gave freely to any willing recipient.

After Sam’s death in 2013, Ava lived with determined independence, remarkable courage and unquenchable spirit until her own passing in August.

Ava is survived by children Samuel Reid Spencer III (Candice), Ellen Henschen (Gary), Clayton Spencer and Frank Spencer (Melanie); grandchildren Samuel Reid IV and James Spencer, Josef (Susan), Sam and Elizabeth Henschen, Will (Mariah) and Ava Carter, Aly Spencer (Brian Zakutansky) and Clark Spencer (Jenifer); great-grandchildren Spencer Henschen and Sam Zakutansky.

Ava Spencer was pre-deceased by husband Sam Spencer; brothers Frank Clark and Blake Clark; and sisters Caroline Stuart, Margaret Tiffany, Katherine Clark, and Eloise Clark.

A service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14, at Davidson College Presbyterian Church.

Memorial gifts may be made to the following:

Spencer-Weinstein Center for Community and Justice
Davidson College
Box 7170
Davidson NC 28035-7170

Clark Scholars
Union Presbyterian Seminary
3401 Brook Rd.
Richmond VA 23227

Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement
Mary Baldwin University
PO Box 1500
Staunton VA 24402

Mount David Named Scholars
In memory of Sam and Ava Spencer
c/o Sarah Pearson
Bates College
2 Andrews Road
Lewiston, ME 04240

Former Trustee Isaiah Tidwell

FEBRUARY 13, 1945 ~ AUGUST 4, 2019 

Services Friday, August 9, 2019 11 AM Friendship Baptist Church 80 Walnut Street SW Atlanta Rev. Dr.  Richard Wills, Sr., Pastor, Officiating Private Interment

Omega Services for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity will be Thursday, August 8, 2019 6 PM – 8 PM at Friendship Baptist Church. 

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published this piece in honor of Mr. Tidwell’s service.

BOV Member Joan Huntley

Dr. Joan Huntley of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, age 88, died on August 5, 2019 at North Carolina Memorial Hospital following a sudden illness. 

Born in Melrose, Massachusetts, Dr. Huntley was a graduate of Mary Washington College (AB, 1953) and received an MPH degree from the University of Virginia in 1962.  After working as a research assistant at Harvard University School of Public Health and Yale University School of Medicine, she pursued further graduate studies in public health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, from which she received a PhD degree in 1970. 

For the next several years, Dr. Huntley taught and conducted research in the UNC School of Public Health and was promoted to Associate Professor, with tenure, in 1975.  Her career then took her to Washington, D.C. where she was a division director in the National Institute on Aging (part of the National Institutes of Health) until retiring to Chapel Hill in 1990. 

In addition to being a member of numerous professional associations, she served as president of the UNC School of Public Health Alumni Association and vice-president of the UNC School of Public Health Foundation.  Dr. Huntley was awarded the H.A. Tyroler Distinguished Alumni Award by the UNC School of Public Health in recognition of the substantial impact she had over her career on the field of epidemiology.  She was the author of numerous scientific articles published in professional journals.

Dr. Huntley was a world traveler and an avid collector of antiques and eighteenth and nineteenth century French paintings.   As an art lover, she enthusiastically supported the North Carolina Museum of Art by serving as a member of the Museum’s board of trustees.  She also provided support to NCMA for the establishment of the Joan and Robert Huntley Gallery and has promised to the museum a valuable collection of Barbizon paintings to be displayed in the Huntley Gallery.

Prior to his passing, Joan and Robert Huntley spent much of their retirement together traveling the world,  when they were not traveling, they enjoyed each other’s company and the serenity of nature in the private escape of their cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  While in this area, Joan became interested in the Ash Lawn Opera in Charlottesville, Virginia where she was a member of the Board of Directors. In more recent years, she enjoyed spending time with friends and colleagues in Charlottesville, VA, as well as Padua, Italy.  Joan always treasured experiencing local art and culture and continued to do so up until her passing.

Dr. Huntley was preceded in death by her husband, Robert Ross Huntley, M.D., a family physician who served as founding chairman of the Department of Community and Family Medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine.  The Huntleys were generous donors to numerous organizations in North Carolina.  In addition to their donations to the NC Museum of Art, they contributed to the Morehead Foundation, Ackland Art Museum, and Davidson College. 

Joan was devoted to her late husband Robert Huntley, Class of 1949, who first introduced her to Davidson College.  She wholeheartedly embraced its purpose, people, and principles, serving as a lifetime member of the Board of Visitors and a founding member of the Art Collection Advisory Committee. Her legacy lives on in the college’s permanent collection and campus sculpture program.

In 2004 Dr. Huntley established an on-going, annual visiting professorship for the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine in memory of her husband.

Surviving relatives include a niece, Elizabeth Dinsmore Nolan of Darien, Connecticut; a nephew, Paul Dinsmore of Los Angeles, California; three stepdaughters —Julia Mehalik of Leland, North Carolina, Katherine Ponton of Warrenton, North Carolina, and Elizabeth Weide of Bend, Oregon; and a stepson, Jeff Huntley of Woodbridge, Virginia.

A graveside service will be held for the immediate family at Old Chapel Hill Cemetery and a memorial service is scheduled for September.  In lieu of flowers please send donations to the NC Museum of Art, The Ackland Museum of Art, Davidson College or the Morehead Planetarium.

 “Joan Huntley’s commitment to Carolina, from the Ackland to public health, medicine and beyond, was extraordinary.  For many, she was a gateway to the university, welcoming them to this incredible place and making them feel at home.  Her passion for educating our students, encouraging collaboration, and taking care of people in Chapel Hill was inspiring.  The impact of Joan’s generosity, support and love for this university will be felt for decades to come.”  – Interim Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz

“Joan Huntley was a Gillings doctoral student who returned to get her PhD after she had worked in the field of aging for some time.  She was an adjunct faculty member, a respected epidemiologist who focused on issues of aging and worked for the National Institute of Aging,  and a member of the Public Health Foundation Board, generous in her wisdom and contributions to the School.  Dr. Huntley always took a pan-university perspective.  She loved many parts of this university and the larger community.  She was a patron of the arts and was as comfortable talking about a painting as about an aging study.  Her renowned Christmas parties were a great example of her broad network.  She came to our May Foundation meeting as an emeritus board member and joined in an active discussion about how one of our faculty intended to measure cognition in older adults.  We will miss Joan very much.”  – Barbara K Rimer, Dr. PH, Dean Alumni Distinguished Professor – UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health 

The Huntley family is under the care of Walker’s Funeral Home of Chapel Hill.  Please express your online condolence by using the tab below.