Linda Davison ’77 was honored with the St. John Henry Newman Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the Newman University Board of Trustees, during the 2020 Difference Makers for Wichita awards banquet Feb. 22.
The honor is presented to those who demonstrate in their daily life an appreciation of the spirit and ideals of St. John Henry Newman and who have been instrumental in the growth and development of the university.
Linda Davison is the oldest of Bob and Helen Bergkamp’s five children. As the first-born, she said she was expected to work hard, be responsible and provide a good example for her younger siblings.
She remembers at 9 or 10 years old her father took her into his shop so she could learn how to fix flat tires on her bicycle.
“With five kids riding on dirt roads, I think he was tired of changing tires so I learned how at a very young age, how to change flat tires,” Davison said.
She took a certain amount of pride in being able to do that and she said it taught her an important lesson, which has stayed with her all her life.
“It taught me not to be pigeonholed and say I can’t do this because I’m a girl.”
Davison’s entire professional career has been filled with that same “can do” spirit. In 1980, she started Seeders Inc, a landscape company that specializes in erosion control and municipal work for highways, ball fields and schools.
“Honestly I could say I was intimidated to walk into the room and be the only woman for many, many years in that room of contractors,” Davison said, “It was intimidating, and I just knew that to continue to be successful, I had to do the work, do it professionally, do it in a timely fashion and not gripe a lot.”
A focus on hard work and getting things done in a male-dominated profession has helped Davison’s company thrive for nearly 40 years. And that same approach, along with her faith and a desire to give back, has helped Davison make an impact on others — including her alma mater, Newman University.
Davison graduated from Kansas Newman College with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Business Administration. She has served her alma mater in numerous and diverse ways. She served on the Laurie Bell Memorial Charity Golf Tournament committee for many years and her business, Seeders Inc. consistently sponsored teams.
Former President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D., remembers Davison as one of the alumni members she met during her interview process and said she was one of the people who asked her to come to Newman.
She served on the Board of Trustees from 2007-2017 and chaired the planning committee for renovations to Eck Hall and the construction of the Bishop Gerber Science Center. She led the committee during the selection of architects and the construction company.
Davison teamed with Carrocci to encourage Bishop Emeritus Eugene J. Gerber to allow Newman to name the science center for him, a pivotal moment for the project’s success. As board chair, she supported the president and advancement team through the successful Facing Forward campaign, the largest in university history, which funded the science center, nursing and allied health lab renovations and the Newman annual fund and endowment.
“I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to work with all involved, especially with Bishop Gerber. I think most people who know me also know that he was my uncle, but it was a special connection,” Davison said.
“God had a hand in all that, so I felt very fortunate to be able to work with Noreen, with Monsignor Hemberger, the development team and the board. It was just a great experience and I’m very proud and think the science center is a highlight of the campus.”
Additionally, as board chair, she supported the president and other members of the Newman executive staff in seeking reaffirmation of accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission in 2016 and 2017. She also oversaw successful efforts to create a comprehensive five-year strategic plan, to grow and strengthen partnerships with the Diocese of Wichita and Wichita businesses and organizations, and to expand academic programs, campus activities and university-wide transparency.
Davison is staying busy with Seeders and new real estate projects while she continues to give back. She serves on the Exploration Place board and is chair of the Guadalupe Health Foundation. Davison is the first woman to be named to the Legacy Bank board and is the first woman president of the Wichita Legatus Chapter.
“I think my parents, by example, taught me to always give back. When they were in their early fifties, they basically quit work and sold their home and moved to El Dorado to open the St. Joseph’s Family Center. They made a commitment to volunteer and run that facility for ten years. It was a great example to all five of us children,” Davison said.