A Trifecta of Firsts: Meet the Donor Helping a University Tackle Tomorrow's Business Challenges

 University of Houston-Downtown

University of Houston-Downtown

The future of the American worker remains murky, but donors who have found success in the business world are doing their part at the university level to provide students with a roadmap for meaningful employment.

For an example of this model in action, we turn to Houston, where Marilyn Davies, CEO of Bailey Banks Seismic, a proprietary seismic data company, gave $10 million to the University of Houston-Downtown's (UHD) College of Business.

This endowment will support the college’s growing programs, faculty and student resources. In recognition of the gift, the college will be renamed the Marilyn Davies College of Business.

As far as "firsts" are concerned, the gift is a trifecta. It creates the first named college at the University of Houston-Downtown. It is the largest gift in the institution’s history. And is the first college of business in Texas to be named for a woman. (Only three other American business schools hold this distinction.)

If you had to conjure up the prototypical donor perfectly attuned to today's global business challenges, you'd have a hard time besting Davies' CV.

While her initial career interests were focused on computers, she eventually found her way into the booming oil and gas industry. She weathered the industry's decline in the early 1980s and purchased the assets of Bailey Banks Seismic from a former employer. The company is the proprietor of Professional Geophysics Inc. database that includes 25,000 miles of data related to exploration areas and basins across the U.S.

Davies' gift will help support UHD's MBA program, which interfaces with 200 Corporate Fellows who combine their professional insights with the academic expertise of the college’s faculty. According to the school, this instructional pairing provides students with "the theoretical and practical perspectives necessary to succeed in the classroom and the workplace." Viewed through this lens, Davies' gifts mirrors other entrepreneurship-oriented gifts to business schools that partner closely with executives in the field.

In fact, the only thing unique about Davies in the context of higher education gifts of this magnitude is the fact that she is not an alumni of UHD in the traditional sense.

She took summer school classes at South Texas Junior College, the institution that preceded the university. Over time, she grew to admire the institution when her son Taylor Davies attended UHD and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. Her brother also attended the University, earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science.