Thomas Sylvester Douglas '59
The Alumni Service Award is presented to alumni and other friends of Davidson College who have rendered and performed a high degree of service to the institution. Today we are honored to recognize Thomas Sylvester Douglas III of the Class of 1959.
Several years ago, a Business Journal reporter, in a story about Douglas Battery Manufacturing Company, observed that if a word could be the driving force of that company, the word would be “loyalty.” That is true of the member of the Class of 1959 whom we honor tonight. Another word describing Tommy Douglas’s relationship with alma mater, and one which is especially apt given Tommy’s vocation, is “energy.”
Tommy’s loyalty to Davidson, and his energetic concern for the college community, began in his student days. He majored in economics, received his commission through ROTC, joined Phi Gamma Delta, and worked on the Scripts ‘n’ Pranks, and Y Student Service Corps.
After his stint in Army Intelligence, Tommy returned home to join Douglas Battery, which under his management and stewardship became one of the largest battery producers in the United States. In his low-key, unassuming way, he provided thoughtful and prudent leadership to Salem Academy and College, Old Salem, the Summit School, First Presbyterian Church, the Winston-Salem Community Foundation, the United Way of Forsyth County, the Red Cross, Rotary, and the Brenner Children’s Hospital.
Much time could be spent discussing Tommy’s contributions to Davidson, but we take special note of his service as Presbytery Trustee from 1986-1997 and his work on the trustee Admissions/Financial Aid Committee. He was an Alumni Association Board member and Vice-President, on the Wildcat Club board, Winston-Salem alumni chapter president, and Annual Fund class agent. When Davidson called he led the way as a member of the Major Gifts Committee for the Campaign for Davidson, and during that effort was co-chair of the regional campaign committee for Winston-Salem. His appreciation for the arts and his affection for Davidson caused him to donate a Rembrandt etching to Davidson; that masterpiece now resides in the college’s Visual Arts Center, which Tommy helped plan and build as a member of the Arts Steering Committee.
Tom and Mary Lee have been married for fifty years, served Davidson together as members of the Parents’ Council, and also introduced Davidson to two other fine alumni, their sons Charles, Class of 1982, and Walker, Class of 1985.
Tommy told the Davidson Journal 1997 that he would always prefer to stay out of the limelight, but that “the days of not putting the candle on the candle stand are gone.” We heartily agree – so in this, the fiftieth year after his graduation, the Davidson College Alumni Association honors Thomas Sylvester Douglas III with the Alumni Service Award on the occasion of his 50th Reunion, this 25th day of April, 2009.