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Collaboration—and All That Jazz

Family’s gift helps build a new home for innovation and learning

Peter Davenport, A59, J87P, is wild about jazz—so much so that Louis Armstrong’s performance at Cousens Gymnasium in 1958 was one of the high points of his Tufts days. Now, with his wife, Sylvia Davenport, J59, J87P, and daughter, Cynthia Davenport Borger, J87, A19P, he’s helping to champion another form of creativity on campus. Their family foundation has made a substantial donation to support an open gallery and adjacent classroom on the top floor of a space called the Collaborative Learning and Innovation Complex, or CLIC.

The gift, says Borger, honors her parents’ long marriage and even longer relationship with the university. The Davenports, who married not long after graduation, recently celebrated their fifty-fifth class reunion.

“They have the warmest memories of the class of ’59,” Borger says. “They’ve stayed in touch with many of their classmates—there’s a very strong cohesiveness in that class. They both have a sparkle in their eye when they refer to Tufts.” The couple has previously supported financial aid for Tufts students through the Class of 1959 Scholarship.

CLIC will be an anchor of the university’s planned science and technology corridor on the Medford/Somerville campus. To create it, Tufts is remodeling a 95,000-square-foot former industrial warehouse at 574 Boston Avenue in Medford. The distinctive new space for teaching and research will house Physics and Astronomy, Occupational Therapy, Community Health, Human-Centered Engineering, Robotics, Entrepreneurial Leadership, and a portion of Child Study and Human Development. On the top floor, natural light will pour into a 20-foot-wide corridor. The long gallery will hold chalkboards, white boards, and a variety of study spaces, inviting group discussions.

The Davenports were drawn to the building because of its role as a hub for the practical application of science. “My dad worked for Corning in New York and other scientific glass companies,” Borger says. “Support for science-oriented programs in education has been a really important component of our philanthropic efforts.”

The family was also impressed with plans to promote cross-disciplinary collaborative learning at CLIC. Borger, who trained as an occupational therapist after attending Tufts, hopes the open design will connect OT students with robotics students, inspiring joint ventures on new wheelchairs or other inventions.

The immediacy of the CLIC project, slated to open later this year, honors a second theme of the Davenport family’s philanthropy: direct investment. “We’ll be helping to create a tangible, positive benefit for the students who will sit in those chairs,” says Borger. She adds that the space also could be a great gathering place for events. Who knows, perhaps a latter-day Louis Armstrong will stop by to play some jazz.