By Rick DeVoe, Executive Director
Throughout the last 40 years, I have had the utmost pleasure and opportunity to work with and for the most remarkable people, but for many of us in the coastal and ocean world, one stood out among them all – Margaret A. Davidson.
Margaret, who passed away in 2017, directed the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium from 1983 to 1997 and went on to become one of the preeminent thought leaders at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). There was no other person like her, and everyone who experienced Margaret’s wisdom, tenacity, insightfulness, finesse, and political know-how became better for it. She was my mentor; I know I could not have survived, and at other times thrived, without her guidance and the confidence she placed in me.
Margaret was integral in the formation of the Consortium. She and I came to South Carolina in 1980 as recent graduates of the University of Rhode Island’s geography and marine affairs program as staff to operationalize the agency, and she was selected as the agency’s executive director in 1983. Margaret went on to work for NOAA and established the Coastal Services Center (CSC) on the old Charleston Navy base. Then she served as acting director of NOAA’s Office for Ocean and Coastal Resources Management (OCRM) and guided the merger of NOAA CSC and NOAA OCRM. Always looking for a new challenge, Margaret then became NOAA’s senior leader for coastal inundation and resilience.
Margaret has been devotionally described in many ways – Visionary, Champion, Mentor, Intellectual, Networker, Leader, Trailblazer, Unique, Compassionate, Extraordinary, Respected … and Colleague and Friend – by her peers, colleagues, and acquaintances. She was adamant about young people within the context of the diversity of face, place, and space, and with the perspectives and passion they bring to the table. She did so knowing that it is our young people who will have to step up and take on future challenges society must address, especially in the hope of becoming more resilient. And she always found that working outside the box ultimately results in more positive outcomes and effective change.
More substantially, in recognition of Margaret’s career-long mission as an agent of change, the Consortium is establishing the Margaret A. Davidson Undergraduate Resilience Research Scholars program (Davidson Resilience Scholars) to provide opportunities for upcoming undergraduate students to contribute novel and innovative ideas and solutions to help address the challenges we face as we look to become a more resilient society. We are creating this program in her name with the hope of cultivating the next generation of professionals – resilience leaders, teachers, mentors – and to honor her life and legacy.
Photo of Margaret A. Davidson by NOAA Office for Coastal Management.