A Family’s Gift Creates a Ladder of Opportunity

May 11, 2017
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Lisa, Brett, and Davis Couch, C’17, have just made a commitment to the Stronger Truer Sewanee campaign to establish a need-based scholarship, with preference going to a student who attended McCallie School in Chattanooga, where Davis was a student.

During his time at McCallie, Davis had the opportunity to meet many students who were at the Chattanooga preparatory school through financial aid, and he came to know some of them well. For the Couches, both that financial assistance and the student support offered by such institutions as McCallie and Sewanee, were important as they considered their gift. “We think it’s the nurturing environment that places like McCallie and Sewanee provide that is important,” says Lisa Couch, “We wanted to set up a scholarship here not only because Davis had a good experience but because we know that environment is critical for some students.”

The Couches are in the process of setting up scholarship funds at Sewanee, McCallie, and a nonprofit private middle school, Academy Prep, in Tampa, that serves students who are eligible for free and reduced lunch. “Our hope is that we help a student who starts at Academy Prep, goes to McCallie, and then attends Sewanee. These three schools are so close in the way they nurture students that we think it is a natural partnership that we hope our philanthropy can encourage.”

Davis is a senior who will graduate in December. “Sewanee really has been a good environment for Davis,” says Lisa. “I think a couple of activities, track and choir, have been particularly important. Those have given him big support networks, and he has formed long-lasting ties. But he loves both those activities.”

Davis has an internship with Raymond James this summer as a corporate analyst.

“At his previous internship, the director of his unit said that summer interns are often enthusiastic and sometimes knowledgeable, but Davis was both enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The pre-business program, with the business minor and the Babson Center, have been really important for his post-college preparation.”

Davis, himself, is convinced the education he has received has been really helpful for his preparation for life after college. “It’s not only the major and the content, but my professors have really taught me how to think. I have learned things I would not have been able to because the professors do a great job of giving you all aspects of what we are studying.”

An economics major with a business minor, Davis has taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Babson Center and the Office of Career and Leadership Development.  “The Babson Center has been really important with the Train the Street program,” he says, “and the Career Center has also been great with ‘Beyond the Gates’ and other activities. I was able to sit down with my track coach’s wife, Kim Heitzenrater [director of Career and Leadership Development] and plot out how I would go after internships and how to present myself through my resume.”

“This is a wonderful family, and their decision about this gift was very much a family affair,” says Robert Black, assistant vice-president for advancement. “Davis has been involved from the beginning, and he had a lot of input into how the gift would be structured and what impact it would have. Their vision for creating a ladder of opportunity for underprivileged kids in Tampa who can go on to an outstanding prep school and then Sewanee is inspirational, and we are truly grateful.