When Alex Fraser (’01 B.B.A. and ’10 M.B.A.) and one of his good friends, Aaron Shaffer (’01 B.B.A.), signed up to travel abroad in the fall of 2000 for Northwood’s Semester in Europe program under the direction of Program Director Anthony Davenport, they excitedly packed their Razor scooters and flew to Paris, France, to kick off the semester-long trip to an anticipated eight countries.
Not only did they make it to 10 countries, but they also got to know Davenport – a man who forever impacted their lives. He was so impactful in fact, that 19 years after returning home, Fraser and Shaffer started the Anthony Davenport Semester in Europe Scholarship, honoring the beloved program director. Starting with the fall 2019 trip, every year one Semester in Europe student will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
The Man Who Lived in a Church Intelligent. Warm hearted. Challenging. Intellectually curious. Creative. These are just a few of the ways Fraser and Shaffer describe Davenport. Davenport was born in America but raised in Provence, France. His parents, William and Roselle Davenport, founded then directed the Semester in Europe program for 21 years. In 1994 Anthony stepped in as the director until he passed away in January 2004 from cancer. Just like his parents, Davenport was passionate about exposing students to other cultures and countries.
“I learned so much on the Semester in Europe trip, but Mr. Davenport taught me how to think,” Shaffer said. “He was one of the most intellectually curious people I’ve ever met. Rather than simply ask you a question, he’d then ask a follow-up question to see how you arrived at that conclusion. He was always challenging you – often in a fun, jovial manner.” Having inherited his parents’ creative genes, Davenport was multilingual, a sculptor, and he converted a church in Ohio into his house. Fraser considered Davenport an influential and impactful mentor. He has several of Davenport’s sculptures in his home and made Davenport the middle name of one of his children.
The Legacy Lives On
Fraser and Shaffer both believe they came back from Europe as completely different people. “When you realize there are churches in Rome five times older than America, that puts things in perspective for you,” Fraser said. “Very little in our life is black and white. Traveling abroad helps you get comfortable with the gray. Living in the gray allows you to not think of everyone as good or bad, but just different. It helps you understand that we’re all in this together.”
Fraser and Shaffer attribute much of this greater understanding to Davenport and they want his legacy to continue.
“Mr. Davenport crafted and built a program that inspires many people who are doing more interesting and impactful things in life because of him and his influence,” Shaffer said. “We want the idea and curiosity of Mr. Davenport to live on.” And what better way to do that than through a scholarship in his honor.
“We think it’s important to support and perpetuate the Semester in Europe program because it stands out against study abroad programs that other universities offer,” Fraser said. “I think supporting and encouraging the program among the Northwood community is a duty of anyone who was part of the experience. It needs to carry on and more people need to have the study abroad experience. It’s transformational and foundational to who you become as an adult. That’s special.” Alumnus and current vice president of Advancement and Alumni Relations, Justin Marshall, participated in the Semester in Europe program two years after Fraser and Shaffer. He too sees the immense value in a study abroad experience.
“As individuals we have to appreciate the differences among us and learn to work with varying abilities, talents, and cultures so we can be useful to each other and create a stronger global community,” Marshall said. “Providing a student with the opportunity to travel beyond the borders of their own country exposes them to other ways of thinking and perspectives. They can now see through a different lens which makes them more capable leaders in a worldwide economy.”
One fall 2019 Semester in Europe student will receive the first Anthony Davenport Scholarship. Fraser and Shaffer encourage anyone who studied abroad or had the privilege of knowing Davenport to consider adding to the scholarship fund. Please contact Sherri Riepma, Family Program coordinator and Private Donor Scholarship coordinator at email@example.com to give or learn more.