Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters

Colby-Sawyer’s Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree recognizes an individual of humanitarian character and superior intellect whose life and work have brought about positive, far-reaching change for individuals and organizations.

Sonja Carlson Davidow '56

Alumna and Trustee Emerita

Sonja Carlson Davidow graduated from the college in 1956 with an Associate of Arts degree. She met her husband, Bill, when she was a student in Colby Junior College’s medical secretary program and he was attending Dartmouth College.

Sonja and Bill settled in Woodside, Calif., where they raised their two daughters, Carolyn and Rebecca. Sonja worked as a medical secretary at Stanford University, and then volunteered in the local community. She has served as chair of the Town of Woodside Historical Committee, a member of the Town Council, and a supporter of many area organizations. She served as an alumni trustee on the Colby-Sawyer Board of Trustees from 1989 to 1992 and was a member of the Board Organization, Capital Campaign and Enrollment Committees, lending her leadership to the board during a pivotal period in the college’s history.

Sonja has a love of the arts that began with her grandfather, an artist who devoted his life to painting. Recognizing the arts as an important component of living a full life, Sonja and Bill have shown extraordinary support for the arts at Colby-Sawyer. They were inducted into Colby-Sawyer’s Legends Society in 2013 for lifetime contributions totaling more than $1 million. In 2021, they contributed an additional $10.2 million, the largest gift in college history, and they established “The Davidow Challenge,” providing matching gifts made to endowed scholarship funds. They funded the Sonja C. Davidow ’56 Endowed Chair of Fine Arts and the Sonja C. and William H. Davidow Endowed Chair. Both the Davidow Center for Art + Design and the William H. and Sonja Carlson Davidow ’56 Fine Art Gallery are named in their honor.

Sonja is a collector of fine art. She enjoys travel, needlepoint, gardening, reading and spending time with her four grandchildren.

This year, Sonja is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The honorary degree recognizes the remarkable leadership and commitment she has offered through her dedication to Colby-Sawyer College.