He Has Always Followed His Own Creative Path: Donald Davie ’68
Allowed to pursue his own creative bent, Donald Davie ’68 is forever-grateful for his unique Miquon experience.
The Miquon School plays an integral part of the earliest memories of Donald Davie. Every afternoon, Don’s father, Earlie Davie, took him along in the Miquon station wagon to pick up kids after school and deliver them safely home.
“I would play in the woods while waiting, and I would meet other kids. We lived in North Philadelphia, and the only wood I saw in my neighborhood was the telephone poles,” he remembers, with a chuckle. “No one from my neighborhood had anything close to this treat that I did.”
Don came from a solidly middle-class family and the scholarship young Donald received from Miquon made all the difference. He started attending Nursery there when he was four and graduated in 1968.
Every day, part of what Don remembers as a “unique experience” was the transformation he witnessed out of the car windows as he and his dad drove from North Philadelphia to Miquon’s campus, around Center City and South Philadelphia, and home again. “I went from the concrete to the beautiful woods every day,” he adds.
It wasn’t until he was in his 30s that Don fully realized the impact these back-and-forth excursions had on him. “I became something of a chameleon—a little different at home than when I was in school. Being with my peers and teachers at Miquon taught me the value of place,” he says.
“We learned—and were given the freedom to learn—not by following a strict regimen, but by using our creativity. We were told, ‘Here’s what we’ll accomplish,’ then set our own pace,” which was part of the “marvel of Miquon” for him. “I was so creative when I was there, and I believe it made me the person I am.”
An early storyteller
Some of Don’s earliest creative attempts involved trying his hand at visual storytelling with a Super 8 camera brought in by one of his friends. He and two of his closest friends, Bruce and Billy, were in second or third grade, and they borrowed the camera from one of the parents to make a movie for Miquon’s annual spring fair.
“It was so hokey,” Donald says. “It was a take-off on the TV show, Gilligan’s Island, and we charged 5-cents admission. We probably made a whole dollar off of it.”
His creative bent continued a year or two later, when the trio—who really loved Coca Cola, and knew bottles of the soda were stored in the office’s basement—decided to create a play with a purpose.
“We decided to do a play based on another TV classic, Lost in Space. We suspended bottles of Coke from a classroom ceiling, so we could fly through the Coca Cola Way (Milky Way) and we grabbed the Cokes and drank them as we flew through them.”
His point is clear through all the shenanigans.
“There was no fitting into anyone else’s cubicle. You were given the freedom to learn at your own pace as long as your work got done, and however you learned best was what they would promote,” he says.
As a physical learner, Don believes that doing puzzles and acting out his stories helped him learn—more his style than simply reading a book. He was, and still is, motivated best when he is able to act, and to react to whatever it is he is working on. He remembers playing in the creek one day, maybe while a Kindergarten student, and a teacher asked him where someone was. Later, he wrote a poem based on that question, and its answer.
“‘We’re down in the water, but we’re not getting wet’ he begins … and it went on like that, and ended with ‘not yet,’” he says. “It was included in the school’s yearbook that year.”
Creative problem solving and proactive thinking
The puzzles and plays he was encouraged to create helped Don think more dynamically and proactively. Rather than look at something and say, “That won’t work,” he learned to ask, “How is this going to work?” and then get down to finding the answer. He recalls hearing someone ask years ago if you are taken into a room blindfolded, then the blindfold is removed and you see you’re in a room with no windows or doors, you might think there was no way out.
“But I would know that I got in somehow, so there has to be a way out,” he says. That type of creative problem solving gained through his Miquon experience stuck with him as he has moved through life.
Attending public school after his Miquon graduation presented him with the opportunity to use that problem-solving skill quickly. He was bored and wasn’t sure how to fit in with the other kids. Although he was placed in the most advanced classes in middle school, he still felt they moved too slowly. He struggled in high school and says his teachers were concerned, but never spoke to him about their concerns, and his parents didn’t know what to do about his challenges.
After attending community college, Don married his 7th grade sweetheart, Brenda, with whom he just celebrated his 40th anniversary and who he calls the “foundation of my life.” The couple moved to California and had a son, after which Don found steady work as a bus driver in San Jose. He was never your traditional bus driver, though; he practiced a stand-up comedy routine during every shift.
“I had started performing in clubs up and down the west coast, and the bus and my passengers were material for my routine,” he says. When the driving and performing took too much time away from his son, Stephen, he quit performing, but continued to drive, retiring after 20 years on the job. Soon after, he became a licensed Realtor, and had a second, successful career selling residential real estate.
Today, Donald and Brenda Davie live in Roseville, California, and although he’s retired from the comedy circuit and from bus driving, he has moved into another creative outlet and is making his mark as a voiceover artist. Visit www.Dsdavie.com.
“People always said I had a great voice and should use it for something, and when someone suggested voiceover work, I went to a conference where I learned more about it and decided I would give it a shot.”
And he continues to credit Miquon with fanning the flames of his creativity, so much so, that he decided to attend his 50th reunion. “Miquon was such an integral part of my life, and when I found out they were having the reunion, I knew I couldn’t miss it.”