May 17, 2022

Charles Davidson, philanthropist and developer, dies

View Original Notice ? Charles Davidson, philanthropist and developer, dies

SAN JOSE — Charles W. Davidson, a legendary philanthropist and developer in Silicon Valley who built thousands of homes, was a pioneer in affordable housing, and provided San Jose State University with the largest private grant in its history, has died. He was 90.

“Chuck was an icon in the community,” Tony Arreola, one of Davidson’s partners and a close friend, said Thursday. “He was a true legend.”

Davidson, a self-made man, graduated in 1957 from San Jose State after working nights in local railroad yards and attending classes during the day with an engineering degree. He began living in San Jose in 1952.

“His contributions to our university and to the City of San José are incalculable, and he will be missed tremendously. Our hearts go out to his family and friends,” San Jose State University President Mary Papazian said in a blog post.

Davidson’s death was confirmed by Arreola, who was partners with Davidson in San Jose-based DAL Properties, a veteran real estate investment and development firm.

“He helped build and grow and grow San Jose,” Arreola said. “His generosity was unmatched and his wisdom life-lasting.”

Over the years, Davidson became one of the Bay Area’s most successful real estate developers and was a pioneer in a concept that decades ago wasn’t widely embraced:  affordable housing.

“His genuine concern for the city’s most vulnerable residents was apparent from early on,” Papazian wrote in the blog post. “Focusing on low-income families and the elderly, he worked tirelessly to construct affordable housing and considered the development of subsidized housing units amongst his proudest achievements.”

In 2007, Davidson provided a grant of $15 million to San Jose State University’s School of Engineering. That grant is the largest private donation in the university’s 150-year history.

Soon after the grant was made, Belle Wei, who in 2008 was the dean of the School of Engineering, commented about Davidson’s jaw-dropping generosity.

“Chuck Davidson believes in the college’s mission to enable diverse and promising students to receive a quality, holistic engineering education,” Wei wrote in 2008. “His gift will transform the college and help us achieve a new level of excellence in preparing our students to thrive in today’s dynamic and competitive world.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Sheryl Ehrman, who is the current dean of the College of Engineering.

“Chuck Davidson’s generosity has indeed transformed the college, supporting programs to improve student success including increasing opportunities for hands-on learning, and enabling advances in research,” Ehrman said.

That engineering learning center is known as the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

“He was one of the pillars of San Jose,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use consultancy. “He was such a wonderful, self-made man. He came to San Jose and he left it better than how he found it.”

Davidson’s generosity extended well beyond the single grant. He also founded the Davidson Family Foundation.

“His legacy will live on as The Davidson Family Foundation will continue to give back to those most in need,” Arreola said.

Davidson was the founding chair of the Tower Foundation, which is San Jose State’s auxiliary philanthropic organization, according to the university.

“Chuck Davidson was a mentor to me,” Staedler said. “I am proud to have known him and be influenced by a man of such high character.”

While noting that Davidson’s passing is to be mourned, the university president said that his accomplishments and legacy are simultaneously a cause for celebration.

“Though we mourn his passing, today we celebrate and honor Charles W. Davidson for his extraordinary achievements, contributions, and life,”  Papazian said in the blog post. “He will be missed.”

University officials also recalled that Davidson was frequently in attendance at Spartans football games and rarely missed a university gridiron contest.

“He meant so much to our community and he will be dearly missed,” Arreola said. “He was really special to me and many others.”


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View Original Notice ? Charles Davidson, philanthropist and developer, dies

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