William Davidson, (z"l), who died on Friday, March 13, 2009, was an entrepreneur, legendary sports team owner (the National Basketball Association's Detroit Pistons, the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Women's National Basketball Association's Detroit Shock), and an extraordinarily generous philanthropist. More than anything, however, Bill Davidson was a visionary. This gift enabled him to succeed in business with his company, Guardian Industries, and marked his special relationship to The Jewish Theological Seminary.
More than a decade ago, when then-Chancellor Dr. Ismar Schorsch approached Mr. Davidson with an idea to create a school of education at JTS, Bill understood immediately the great impact that such a school would have. He knew the profound importance of education for the future of the Jewish people, and his remarkable endowment established the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education of The Jewish Theological Seminary.
Bill Davidson understood that well-prepared and inspired Jewish educators had to be at the heart of the renewal of Jewish life in America and he committed himself to making sure that JTS could respond to the needs of our people by way of the graduates of The Davidson School. He believed in The Davidson School's diverse array of programs to assist educators working in the many and varied settings of contemporary Jewish education, and in the school's commitment to the active, ongoing professional development of our educators.
For all of his accomplishments, Bill Davidson was a modest man, shunning the limelight and uncomfortable with praise. JTS's Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen and the dean of The Davidson School, Dr. Barry Holtz, paid him a visit in Detroit last summer, and as they were about to leave, they noticed a photograph of the 2004 World Champion Detroit Pistons team. Mr. Davidson remarked, "The other sports owners ask me how it's possible that I could have had the world champion teams in men's professional basketball, hockey, and women's professional basketball all in one season. It had never been done before. Do you know what I tell them?" "No," replied Chancellor Eisen and Dr. Holtz, "what do you say?" Mr. Davidson smiled, "Just dumb luck, I tell them!"
It was a modest statement, typical of the man. But for anyone who knew Bill Davidson, the real answer touched upon the qualities that made him great: intelligence, energy, commitment, and vision. We will all miss him greatly. May his memory be a blessing.