Perry P. Davis ’71, Ed.D., knows that to be an inspiring school superintendent, you must first be an inspiring teacher. He retired in 2008 as superintendent of the Dover-Sherborn Public Schools, where he served for 11 years as a strong leader and manager. This fall, he will gather at Westfield State with the friends he made at Davis Hall to tour the campus and have lunch.
In what way did Westfield State inspire and motivate you for a career in education?
All my professors were supportive and encouraging, but Bernard McMahon, an art professor, was my class advisor, and he saw potential in me. He was encouraging. “You’re good at this. You can do this,” he would say—not only to me but to many other students. His courses weren’t easy. In class, he was very, very serious. “I took his ceramics class, and he told me, ‘You can do better than this.’ When I told him I wasn’t pushing myself hard because, ‘It’s just ceramics,’ he told me, ‘There’s no such thing as just ceramics.’”
What did you enjoy most about your work as an educator?
I loved watching students learn and achieve. I started every school year by visiting the kindergarten classes to watch the young children engage in the classroom. You could see the range of learners that the teacher was prepared to teach that year. I also loved graduation night. I worked in small school systems and usually got to meet most of the students. I attended school activities and athletic events. When I presented the diplomas, I usually knew the students, and many times I got a handshake and, a few times, a big hug.
What inspires you to give to Westfield State?
I’ve always felt that paying back—or, as the term is now, paying it forward—was a responsibility and an obligation. My education is what gave me so many opportunities. Westfield State gave me the foundation to be prepared for the teaching profession and graduate school. Earning my bachelor’s degree was only the start. My wife, Paula, graduated from Westfield State in 1973, and my daughter Maribeth Davis Haynes graduated from Westfield State in 1999. I decided to endow a scholarship that will first be awarded in 2021—the 50th anniversary of my graduation. The Davis Family Tuition Scholarship recognizes Paula and Maribeth, and it will support a student intending to teach in early childhood, history, or art. This scholarship is my way of paying it forward for future students attending Westfield State University.
What makes you proud of Westfield State now?
Today, Westfield State University is much more than a teachers’ college. It has grown and evolved into a university that continues to create learning options for a diverse group of students.