Dow Davis

J.H. Dow Davis

Chair Emeritus, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

Dow Davis is Chair Emeritus of The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations (AVDF). He served over 30 years on the AVDF board with the last 22 as Chair.  The Foundations were founded over 65 years ago by Arthur Vining Davis, who was one of the early pioneers in the production of aluminum. He was appointed President of Alcoa in 1910 and upon retirement in 1948 he moved to Florida and was active in land development starting the company ARVIDA.

AVDF is national in scope with almost 4,000 past grants. Programs now include Private Higher Education, Interfaith Leadership and Religious Literacy, Public Education Media, Environment, and Palliative Care. It has a long history in funding historical black colleges, Native American institutions, public television, and was a pioneer in funding hospice in its early days. It is probably best recognized for its work with Ken Burns’ films and children’s television such as the Fred Rogers Company, Reading Rainbow and Between the Lions.  The Foundations are now in its fourth generation of trustees.

Dow has served on several boards including the Congregational Church of Weston, MA, Middlesex School of Concord, MA and as Member of the Corporation of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Dow served as an officer in the Army serving in Korea and later as a Company Commander stateside.  He spent over 20 years in corporate and private banking where he was Vice President at Bank of Boston including 4 years as Managing Director of the bank’s subsidiaries in Australia and temporarily as Branch Manager of the bank’s Singapore office. Later he joined Bank of New England/Fleet Bank as a Senior Vice President of a private banking team.  He left banking and joined the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund in its early days.

Making a change from corporate America, he joined Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where he spent 12 years, most of the time as Executive Director of The Center for Business and Government with extensive travel in Asia.

Dow and his wife Sue, a Speech and Language Pathologist, are retired living on Cape Cod where he is active in several local organizations. Sue and Dow have 7 children between them and are challenged trying to keep up with 15 grandchildren.

Dow graduated from Middlebury College and received an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.


Becoming a Successful Board Chair: Tips and Advice from Your Peers

Posted on February 9, 2017 by Alice Buhl, Susan Briggs, Nancy Cable, J.H. Dow Davis

Board chairs play an important and indispensable role in family foundations. Much more than just an honorary title, serving as board chair requires extra preparation, time, and specific skillsets. Join NCFP as we learn from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation Board Chair and President about the wide range of tasks and responsibilities facing board chairs, including overseeing board meetings, succession… Read More