Washburn University alum Dick Davidson gives $5 million for college scholarships

Without a basketball scholarship, Dick Davidson might never have gone to college.

Now he hopes to offer the same opportunity to others.

Washburn alum Davidson and his wife, Trish, donated $5 million to create the Thelma Ann Davidson Memorial Scholarship in Washburn. The scholarship will provide financial assistance to high-achieving students with financial needs.

It is the largest grant Washburn has ever received.

“We are deeply grateful for this incredible gift to support future generations of Washburn students,” university President JuliAnn Mazachek said in a written statement. “This grant will be transformative by enabling or even allowing more students to realize their educational dreams at Washburn. Since we met many years ago, Dick and Trish have been steadfast partners in supporting hardworking Washburn students, and we are grateful for their continued commitment to making higher education possible and affordable for all.

Dick Davidson rose through the railroad industry after Washburn

Davidson grew up on a farm in Alan. After graduating from high school at the age of 18, he went to Washburn and worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. He graduated from Washburn in 1966. He continued his career in the railroad industry and retired from Union Pacific Corp. in 2007. as CEO.

“I would never have gone into management at the railroad if I hadn’t gotten my college degree there,” he said. “So it just made all the difference in the world to me.”

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Davidson has remained closely associated with the university since graduating.

“When I met Dick and Trish, their incredible story of coming from rural Kansas, working hard and achieving success was truly inspiring,” Marshall Meek, president of the alumni association, said in a written statement. “Their dedication to giving back to other students like them will motivate many students to work hard in the future. Washburn is grateful for all they continue to do for students.”

This is the second record-breaking donation the Davidsons have made in the last fifteen years. In 2009, they made the largest donation Washburn had ever received at that time. The $5 million donation was used for lectureships, chairs and fellowships at the School of Business.

Unlike the previous donation, the new grant will benefit students from any academic field.

“I’m glad we could help and I hope it improves the lives of many young people,” Davidson said.

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Davidson said he wanted to create a scholarship that would help others like him and commemorate his mother, Thelma Ann Davidson.

“She always encouraged me to go to college, and she was a registered nurse,” Davidson said. ‘She had gone to school herself after graduating from high school. So she knew the value of an education.”

The fund will continue to generate money and grants will be distributed over the next two years.