Furman names first female president

Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost at Baylor University, has been named 12th president of Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

By Bob Allen

Baylor University administrator and accounting professor Elizabeth Davis has been named president of Furman University, an independent private school in Greenville, S.C., that broke ties with the South Carolina Baptist Convention in 1992.

elizabeth-davis cropDavis, 51, will become 12th president of the school founded by Baptists in 1826 and the first woman to hold the post. She currently serves as executive vice president and provost at Baylor, a large university in Waco, Texas, affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

A member of Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, Davis has been a member of the Baylor faculty since 1992. She was named vice provost for financial and academic administration in 2004. She became interim provost in 2008 when Baylor fired President John Lilley after two years on the job. Current President Ken Starr elevated her to the permanent position after he took office in 2010.

Furman trustees announced Davis’ hiring Feb. 6. She takes office July 1.

The 2,662-student school is named after Richard Furman, first president of the first national Baptist denomination in America, called the Triennial Convention, and one of the nation’s most important Baptist leaders before the Civil War.

In 1990, Furman trustees voted to amend the university's charter and give the board sole power to elect trustees, after the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s historic practice of selecting trustees grew politicized in an era of Southern Baptist life today commonly called the “conservative resurgence.”

The university's motto remains Christo et Doctrinae (For Christ and Learning). Today Furman describes itself as “a learning community where faith is cherished but not coerced,” which “makes its own spiritual commitments explicit through faculty, staff and administrators who provide models of faith, academic excellence, maturity and wisdom.”

Davis’ husband, Charles, also teaches at Baylor. They have two children, Chad and Claire.