News & Ideas  -  Sharon L. Davies to lead Charles F. Kettering Foundation | Former Spelman College provost, led Kirwan Institute at Ohio State

News Press Release

DAYTON, OHIO (March 21, 2022) – The Board of Directors of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation has chosen Sharon L. Davies, J.D., as its president and chief executive officer. This is the first change in leadership since 1981 for the nonprofit organization, which researches and promotes citizen-centered democracy. David Mathews, the current CEO and president of the Kettering Foundation, will become president emeritus when Davies begins in April.

The Kettering Foundation was founded in 1927 by Charles F. Kettering, noted inventor and philanthropist, who received a degree in engineering from The Ohio State University. Davies brings to her new role broad experience in academic, public service and the non-profit spheres. She held a variety of leadership posts at Ohio State during 22 years of service on the faculty of the Moritz College of Law, including as associate dean of the law school, executive director of The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity and vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer for the university.

At Moritz, Davies held the Gregory H. Williams Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, named in honor of the law school’s first African American dean. At the Kirwan Institute, named after former OSU president William “Brit” Kirwan, she led multidisciplinary research for communities located around the country to promote civic engagement and increase understanding of barriers to social and economic well-being. Davies left Ohio State in 2017 to become provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Spelman College, a historically black college for women in Atlanta. She remained in that post for four years until last fall.

“It is an honor to build on the legacy of David Mathews, who has firmly established the Kettering Foundation among the ranks of the nation’s finest operating foundations, with a distinctive agenda for strengthening public democracy,” Davies said. “It is hard to imagine more important work than ennobling the role of citizens in their own self-governance at this particular moment in global affairs. Throughout his life, Charles F. Kettering modeled good citizenship and the importance of innovative and open-minded engagement in the great challenges of his time. To have the opportunity to lead the foundation that he began almost 100 years ago is a personal and professional privilege for me.”

Davies was born in Springfield, Mass., and grew up in South Deerfield, Mass. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a law degree from Columbia University School of Law. Before becoming a law professor, Davies worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.

She is also an accomplished writer and public speaker. Her work includes “Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race, and Religion in America” which recounts a 1920s religiously motivated murder that occurred in Birmingham, Alabama. Davies has two adult children.

“After an exhaustive search, the Kettering Foundation Board of Directors is delighted that Sharon Davies will lead the organization at this critical moment for democracy,” said the chair of the Kettering Foundation Board of Directors, Sherry Magill. “She thinks creatively and in the most practical terms about problems facing democracy for communities, the nation at large and internationally. We are excited to see her bring her vision and energy as she leads the Kettering Foundation’s efforts to understand how democracy might work as it should, for everyone.”

The Kettering Foundation is a nonprofit operating foundation rooted in the American tradition of invention and cooperative research. Ketterings primary research question is, what does it take to make democracy work as it should? Ketterings research is conducted from the perspective of citizens and focuses on what people can do collectively to address problems affecting their lives, their communities, and their nation.