By Janice Beetle ’85
Over a half-century ago, Gerald Davis of Agawam bought a house and 40 acres of land in Southwick with his late wife, Christina (McLaren) Davis. They renovated the home, developed the property, and had two children. The Davises felt joy on Granville Road—until Christina’s life was lost to breast cancer in 1978.
Davis eventually was remarried to Barbara, and his granddaughter, Holly Walsh ’17, became a student in environmental science at Westfield State. Holly invited her grandfather to a presentation during her senior year. Davis learned about research and land surveys the students were doing along roadways in Westfield. He walked away with the idea to donate the land he and Christina owned to Westfield State, in her memory.
This spring, with Davis’ permission, the land he gifted was sold for $50,000. Half was used to create the Christina (McLaren) Davis Environmental Science Scholarship, which will be given annually to a student majoring in environmental science. The remaining funds will be used to support Environmental Science Department initiatives.
“It makes me feel good that Christina will be remembered this way,” says Davis. He adds that Holly—who now works for Tighe & Bond—highly approved of his idea.
In addition to Davis’ generosity also came philanthropy from Terri Bennett of Southwick, the land buyer. Bennett lives adjacent to the parcel and wanted to ensure it would not be developed. She has entered into an agreement with Westfield State that allows environmental science students access to the property.
“I am glad to help the students with an outdoor classroom. They are our future,” she says.
“The gifts will enhance learning opportunities for students in the classroom and in the field for years to come,” says Jennifer A. Hanselman, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Mathematics and Sciences. “This is a wonderful tribute to the strength of the Environmental Science program, its faculty, and the 150 students who will benefit in some way from this generous donation.”
John E. McDonald Jr., Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Environmental Science, envisions students using the land to study farm fields, wetlands, and mature hardwood forests, as well as wildlife population, soil, and native and invasive plants.
“This will be a great spot to go to that gets us off the road and into a quieter environment,” he says. “The
land allows us to conduct hands-on experiments in which students apply classroom knowledge and make connections. Access to this property will give us a much better field experience for all our students, just a short trip from campus.”