Paying Forward the Gift of Outreach

$2 million estate gift from Matt and Kathleen Davis supports ComArtSci and Vet Med

matt and kathleen davis and their two dachshunds bailey and lolas

Paying Forward the Gift of Outreach

$2 million estate gift from Matt and Kathleen Davis supports ComArtSci and Vet Med

The College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine are the recent recipients of a $2 million estate gift—split evenly between the two—from CAS alumnus Matt Davis (’86) and his wife, Kathleen. The Davises have also made cash pledges to both colleges, so that they may begin making an impact right away

The R. Matt Davis Communication Excellence Fund will provide discretionary support to the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, to pursue new and innovative initiatives and learning opportunities that will give students a leg up as they enter the ever-changing landscape of a career in communications. The Mercedes Davis Fund, named after their beloved pet, will support specialized care for small animals at the MSU Veterinary Medical Center.

“I’m grateful to Matt and Kathleen Davis for this generous gift,” says President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. “When members of the Spartan community make significant investments like this, it affirms that the university has served them well and continues to move in the right direction. Their support will help us to continue enhancing the MSU student experience, our faculty’s prominence and our exceptional outreach.”

Experiential learning, insightful mentorship and access to a huge, helpful network of fellow Spartans in his field are three things that Matt says heavily influenced his career.

He came into MSU thinking he wanted to be a TV news reporter, but after an internship in TV, he realized that wasn’t for him. He turned to then-director of the MSU School of Journalism Dr. Stan Soffin, who introduced Matt to the emerging field of corporate communications. Matt was hired at The Dow Chemical Company straight out of college by Wanda Herndon, a fellow ComArtSci graduate, and the rest, as they say, is history. “I give them both a lot of credit. Between Wanda and Dr. Soffin, they really determined my direction coming out of Michigan State,” Matt says.

“ComArtSci is deeply appreciative of the support of alumni like Matt and Kathleen Davis, whose generosity touches the lives of our students,” says Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. “While we are immensely grateful for their gift, we are equally grateful to Matt for his leadership role on our alumni board and his enthusiasm to share his experiences and empower our students.”

The College of Veterinary Medicine is a particular area of passion for Kathleen—a proud and enthusiastic “Spartan-by-marriage”—and the Mercedes Davis Fund is the product of that. Kathleen was deeply moved by the compassionate care their beloved dog, Mercedes, received from the rehabilitation team at the Small Animal Clinic, and the Davises hope that the fund they’ve named in Mercedes’ memory will be able to provide optimism and comfort to fellow pet owners whose companions need specialized care.

“People bring their animals, and sometimes find out that the treatment they’re hoping for—that will prolong the life of their pet—is extremely expensive, and they may not have the wherewithal to go ahead with it,” Kathleen says. “That’s where we hope this fund will be able to help, and that the College of Veterinary Medicine will be able to tap into it on behalf of those pets and their owners.”

The College of Veterinary Medicine’s Dean Birgit Puschner agrees: “We are so touched and honored that Matt and Kathleen chose to pay tribute to their beloved companion Mercedes by creating this fund in her memory. The impact of this gift, which will enable pet parents to pursue treatments that offer their animal family members a new lease on life, is truly impossible to quantify.”

Matt Davis began his 32-year career at Dow in 1986, and worked his way up to the position of president of Dow North America and senior vice president of global corporate affairs before retiring in 2019.

Kathleen, a graduate of Eastern Michigan University, studied hospital administration and worked at a global business association before moving into a corporate communications role at Dow, where she and Matt met.  Kathleen is now involved in several community organizations in the Bay Harbor and Petoskey, Michigan communities where they reside.

Matt is currently president of Driftwood Leadership, LLC, which focuses on leadership strategies and inspirational training for organizations and individuals.  He also serves on charity and corporate boards, and was recently elected to the Board of Directors for Altria Group, Inc.

The Davises have both found a sense of community by getting involved, giving back philanthropically and encouraging others to do the same at MSU.

“I have enjoyed becoming a part of the Spartan family through Matt,” Kathleen says. “We’re happy to be able to participate in helping and making opportunities for so many.  We hope to encourage other alumni to stay in touch and get to know the students who are the future of their field.”

“It is so energizing to feel part of something bigger than yourself in this way,” Matt says. “I can’t think of anything better than giving back time, money and resources to the university that gave me so much in my life.”

LEARN MORE about supporting MSU through your estate plans by contacting Deanna Gast, senior director of gift planning, at, or by calling 517-884-1071.

Author: Devon Barrett, '11