Jim Pepper '65 wasn't an A+ student. He viewed Davidson as his laboratory where he learned to deal with different kinds of people and enjoy them all along the way.
Admittedly, the Davidson he attended did not offer much in the way of broad cultural experiences. Students involved in the arts were already skilled artists and brilliant musicians. There wasn't the art experience that exists on campus today.
Pepper is one to thank for the evolution of the arts at Davidson. He has given much to Davidson—pieces from his personal collection, the creation of the Pepper Visual Arts Scholarship Program and most recently, the Jaume Plensa sculpture that so beautifully sits between Chambers Building and Dormitory Drive and serves as a daily conversation starter among passersby.
He plans to continue his generosity to Davidson and has included the college in his estate plans.
"If students are exposed to great art or even to mediocre art—because who's to say which is which—they can grow without realizing it," said Pepper. "You do absorb things just by casually looking at or passing by art, and the acceptance of it translates to how you accept and tolerate different cultures and languages and the like."
Pepper acknowledges the increasing educational opportunities available on the Internet, and he cites culture as one of the things that can't be conveyed via the Web.
"Culture is in the air you breathe," he said. "If art is physically present, students can actually see and touch it, and when the faculty come together and think in an interdisciplinary way, art can be brought into just about any field of study. When you're on campus, and art is all around you, it becomes a part of you."
After graduating from Davidson and moving to New York City, Pepper remembers encountering young people who came from more cultured backgrounds, and he's pleased that today's Davidson's graduates have the opportunity to develop a greater awareness of the arts.
"Davidson gave me a great deal, and I have tried to use it well," he said. "Above all, I got a great education!"