Within minutes of sitting down next to Kathy Bray ’85, evidence of her gift for listening and showing genuine interest in other people’s lives shines through. After post-graduate stints in international relief and development, education and admissions, Bray worked for 15 years as Davidson’s associate dean of students.

“While working in Admission, I would catch glimpses of amazing students,” she said. “I really wanted to follow their lives and their stories.”

She resigned in 2016 in order to pursue a Master’s in Counseling, with hopes of going into private practice. Her time at Davidson taught her, she said, that “it really doesn’t take much to make a difference.”

“Much” is exactly what she did, however. From helping the college advance prevention efforts and responses to sexual misconduct to spending one-on-one time with students who needed to talk through challenges or successes, Bray left a mark on hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

“When you leave a job, one of the hardest things is feeling there’s so much more still to do,” she said. “Specifically, in the area of coming of age as a woman on this campus, it concerned me that we had so few women running for positions like Student Government Association president. I made a point to communicate belief in women’s ability to do things like that.”

On the occasion of Bray’s departure, a movement on campus renamed the college’s current women’s leadership conference as the Katherine M. Bray Women’s Leadership Conference. Fittingly, this annual conference aims to provide a context for both students and community members to discuss real issues affecting women.

When Bray reflects on the impact she made at her alma mater, she hopes people say she did a good job and embodied the college’s commitment to valuing students as humans while recognizing that many face challenging paths.

Bray reminds us that “most of the students walking the hallowed grounds of Davidson today confront difficulties. Whenever I spoke with a student, I would hope that by the end of the conversation, they would know they have value. Even in the worst moment, they possess light.”

Leaving a positive mark on others’ lives was part of Bray’s life, long before she realized it. In her beautifully-written essay attached to her application for admission to Davidson, she talked about lending an ear for friends who were going through tough times in high school. One friend couldn’t get along with her father. Another friend dreaded spending the holidays with her family. They called their friend Kathy.

Today she continues to give advice, and her message to students is a simple one: “Live kindness. If you live that way, you will learn from each other, and we all need to do a better job of that.”

How are we cultivating more game changers like Kathy Bray?
Learn about the campaign priorities.

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