A Privilege to Give
It's a good thing Pete Ashcraft '57 wasn't applying himself fully as a teenager, for otherwise, he may never have found Davidson.
Before his junior year in high school, Ashcraft's mother put him on a train from Massachusetts to Tennessee, where he was to attend Tennessee Military Institute (TMI). As a new student, there were some growing pains, mostly in the form of adjusting to the South and putting up with upperclassman pranks.
One prank came in the form of an Easter joke. Ashcraft and his first-year classmates were told they should run to a field where there were many Easter eggs lying around. If any student found a golden egg, they would earn a letter grade higher in a course.
Not only were there no golden eggs in that field far away; there were no eggs at all.
But here's where Ashcraft's Davidson story began without anyone realizing it. When he ran toward the egg-less field, he ran fast.
Ashcraft became a member of the TMI track team.
"During the winter of my senior year, our track team attended an invitational where high schools and colleges were represented," said Ashcraft. "Davidson's coach, Pete Whittle, introduced himself to me, and I remember he was gregarious and genuine. I hadn't heard of Davidson, but I would never forget Coach Whittle."
When it came time to choose a college, Ashcraft applied and was accepted, and his mother put him on a train once again—this time to North Carolina to run on Davidson's track team. When he arrived, it was the first time he had ever laid eyes on the campus, but he knew "it was to be," and he promptly ran in, and won, the Freshman Cake Race.
Davidson and Davidson people have been instrumental in Ashcraft's life, from the moment he arrived as a freshman to this very day, and for that reason, he chose to include the college in his estate plans. His gift will support men's track scholarships—the third endowed scholarship fund for the Davidson track program—as scholarships were "a godsend" for his college experience.
After graduation, Ashcraft married his girlfriend since junior high school, and they worked to make her dream of owning a clothing boutique come true. With the help of a Davidson grad, their first store had the best location in the newly built Charlottetown mall, and eight stores later, that dream served the Ashcraft family well.
It was a lesson he learned at Davidson that stayed with Ashcraft through all of life's ups and downs.
"There was a time during my sophomore year when I was just down," he recalled. "I was having a tough time in the classroom, I got hurt running, and perhaps I wasn't getting as many letters from my girlfriend as I would have liked. I went to my adviser, economics professor Dr. Griffin, and I told him I wanted to quit. I wanted to leave Davidson for a year. He said to me, ‘What are you going to do? You're just going to quit?' That conversation, though brief, never left me. From that point on, I never quit because I never had a good reason to quit."
Ashcraft finds it difficult to explain how important Davidson has been in his life, but he feels it is his "responsibility to give back."
"Davidson made and saved my life," he said. "It is the thing that has allowed me to make this gift. And what a privilege it is to be able to do it."