1985 Laurel Ridge graduate Candace Davenport is pioneering a new role at First Bank – she is the company’s first Vice President, IDEA (inclusion, diversity, engagement and action) Officer.
“About 18-20 months ago, the CEO and I were talking about Juneteenth and what we could do surrounding that,” said Davenport, who also serves on the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley Board of Directors and its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Committee. “We got into a discussion about it and started meeting about what this means and how we as a bank could progress.
“There was some excitement that First Bank’s executives saw that there was this need. I say to everybody, ‘Diversity isn’t color always. It’s diversity of thought and ideas, and also exploring how we can help understand each other.’”
There are people within the community who are under-served and under-represented, Davenport noted, and her role will include bringing awareness within the company to its employees. She said four banks have put money together (Banking on Diversity loan) to see how they can help minority business owners.
Davenport started working at First Bank in 2014. She started her new role in March having previously served as vice president, banking center manager.
The single mother of one grown son, Ian, started working as a teller at First American Bank in 1985. She has been in banking since then, with the exception of three years spent working at a recycling company in Northern Virginia.
Besides her service on the MSV Board, Davenport’s other civic commitments have included serving on the boards of the Laurel Center, the Fremont Street Nursery, Blue Ridge Habitat for Humanity, Douglas Alumni Association and the Sinclair Health Clinic.
“I think this was a natural progression because I believe that my purpose is to serve people,” she said. “We’re all humans and we all want the same things. We all want to have a job, to have a safe place to live, to support our families, for our families to be happy. It just is mind-boggling to me why people think of it differently because of race and ethnicity.”
Davenport and her siblings grew up in the north end of Winchester, and her family’s ties to Laurel Ridge run deep. Her mother, Dr. Helen Long Davenport, walked her to school at Virginia Avenue Elementary School – now Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary School – every day. Dr. Davenport was a teacher’s aide and wanted to become a teacher, and the principal, Charlotte DeHart, pushed her to pursue that dream.
Dr. Davenport – who married her husband, Robert at 14 – would have four children by age 20 and five total. She became one of the very first students at Laurel Ridge, and her daughter remembers those days.
“There were three of us she would take with her to Laurel Ridge,” Davenport said. “We would walk the halls. The librarian would set up movies for us to watch while she was having class.”
Dr. Davenport taught at Frederick Douglass Elementary School for three decades, earned her Ph.D, and wrote “The Journey from Dropout to Doctor.”
In her family, getting an education was never something that was a pressure, but it was a priority, Davenport said. While she hasn’t continued her education beyond her associate degree, she has taken advantage of many educational opportunities like graduating from The Virginia Bankers School of Bank Management held at the University of Virginia, and executive leadership training offered through her workplace.
Three of her siblings have at least four-year degrees. Her brother, Zebulun Davenport, earned his Ph.D., and is vice president of student affairs at West Chester University. He previously worked in the financial aid office at Laurel Ridge.
Two other brothers, Eleazar and John, both attended Laurel Ridge, too. Davenport’s son, Ian, was dual enrolled at Laurel Ridge while a student at Sherando High School. He went on to James Madison University on a full academic scholarship, earning degrees in math and physics from JMU.
Now, Ian is working on his doctoral degree in physics from Harvard University. One of his cousins is at Brown University studying for her doctorate.
“The biggest lesson I will always remember is my dad, we called him Pop, he didn’t care what it was we wanted to do or wanted to be, but just be the best that we could be,” Davenport said. “Be your best at anything you do. That has been part of how I live and what I taught my son to do. I am always trying to be the best version of me.”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.