Becoming the Great
Reverend France Davis shares the importance of lifelong learning for the greater good
by Heather Stringfellow
I jumped at the chance to write this article. After spending the last few decades watching Reverend France A. Davis’s (’77) work from afar, my hand flew up at the chance to spend a few hours with him. As a fellow activist, I was excited to meet him—but also a little starstruck.
I could write so much about Rev. Davis that it would take up more pages than I have room for. Where to start? In speaking with him, it seemed like the natural place would be education. So, let’s start there. Rev. Davis epitomizes what it means to be a lifelong learner—and he inspires others to be one too.
His quest to learn is evident, with bachelor’s degrees in religion and philosophy from Westminster College and in African American studies, arts and letters, and rhetoric from Laney College, Merritt College, and the University of California, Berkeley; Rev. Davis also holds master’s degrees from the University of Utah and Northwest Nazarene University, and an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from the University of Utah.
Lifelong learning includes learning more about others’ experiences and history. I talked to Rev. Davis on June 19, 2021—a fitting day to speak with someone with such a legacy. His journey to include all Utahns in our history is critically important and relevant. Rev. Davis is leaning into the work to ensure Utah makes Juneteenth a state holiday. More importantly, he is leveraging the opportunity to educate people about what critical race theory really is. “It is not against anybody, but it is to be inclusive of everybody,” Rev. Davis says. “We need to be teaching it so that all of the peoples of our state can be included where they are rightly due in Utah and US history.”
Serving the community as an educator and opening the door for those who would otherwise not have access to education have been two cornerstones of Rev. Davis’s work. As the first African American on the Utah Board of Regents, the Westminster Distinguished Alumni Award recipient started the Expect the Great program. “It’s designed to provide scholarships, educational opportunities, and job opportunities for people who are of African and African-American heritage at colleges across the state,” Rev. Davis says. This includes Westminster, which hosted an Expect the Great conference in 2017.
As we wrapped up our conversation, I asked Rev. Davis how our readers could lean into learning. As a community of lifelong learners, Rev. Davis calls on Westminster to educate ourselves and each other about the African-American experience and get involved. “The more all of us get involved,” Rev. Davis reminds us, “the more likely we are to solve the issue.”
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.