College Bowl: A Davidson Success Story

You may have noticed flyers around campus this week recruiting players for the Intramural Quiz Bowl tournament.  We at “Around the D” encourage you to try out, as Quiz bowl is the outgrowth proud Davidson tradition dating back to the late 1950s!

Flyer for the Intramural Quiz Bowl titled, "Davidson College on Coast-to-Coast TV"Quiz Bowl is the evolution out of the General Electric College Bowl tournaments, which Davidson activity participated in–on LIVE TV! On Sunday April 19, 1959, four Davidson College scholars engaged in a battle of wits with a team from the University of Minnesota. The contest was broadcast on CBS at 5 p.m. EST.

1959 College Bowl Team

1959 College Bowl Team

The team consisted of Laurens Waker, Francis Nye, Charles Chastain, and team captain Robert Livingston. These four students were subjected to rigorous examination to make the team—a faculty committee nominated twenty students, who were in turn given a “national standard culture test with only one hour to allowed for the two-hour test.” Test results cut the list to a dozen, which was then cut down to the final team through additional testing. Associate professor of history Dr. Paul Marrotte coached the finalists, and accompanied the students to the telecast. The team did not win their match, but participation earned the college prestige and a $500 scholarship.

1969 College Bowl Team

1969 College Bowl Team

The men of Davidson proved more successful at the College Bowl on Sunday April 27, 1969 at 6 p.m., on NBC. Richard Anderson, captain Robert Bryan, R. Samuel Gwynn, Robert Reid, and Charles Timmons, Jr., under the direction of English professor Charles Lloyd, won their fifth consecutive contest, earning both $19,500 in scholarship funding for Davidson, but also the title of College Bowl Champions for winning the maximum five games in a row. Davidson became the 33rd team in the ten years of College Bowl history to win the maximum five consecutive matches.

Davidson's 1979 team of Tim Newcomb, Ed Trumbull, captain Tom Ruby, James Gilbert and Sharon GravettDavidson’s College Bowl success story continued in 1979, when the Davidson team of Tim Newcomb, Ed Trumbull, captain Tom Ruby, James Gilbert and Sharon Gravett came out #1 in a national tournament hosting 200 college and universities. Davidson won the College Bowl National Championship defeating Harvard in an impressive 405-110 win! The victory earned $15,000 in scholarships, and an all expenses-paid, week-long trip to England for the World Championship match against the Sidney Sussex College of Cambridge University, hosted in Manchester in late June 1979.

In England the team lost in the World Championship match, but in the incredibly narrow margin of 215 to 210 points!  President Sam Spencer spoke on behalf of the College when he said that “We are very, very proud of the accomplishments of the team and of the hard work each them has put into it.”

Although 1979 has been the highpoint in the history of Davidson College Bowl, their second place finish in the national tournament in 1981 was nevertheless impressive. Since 1981, Davidson has continued to actively participate in College Bowl events, though the successes have not been as great. The best recent performance has been a 6th place finish at the national tournament in 2006. Perhaps this year, your participation in the Quiz Bowl Tournament will help Davidson build another national tournament winning team!


  1. Bob Patrick says

    I still remember that 1969 Davidson team. Robert Bryan’s mother was a fifth-grade teacher at a school I attended for about a year (1965-66). I can still see him nearly coming out of his chair whenever he gave a correct answer. I wish more of my own students were as knowledgeable as this and other “College Bowl” teams were.

  2. Bryan was a Phi Delt, I think, and passed away a few years ago. Even for a guy from NC, his drawl was pretty pronounced. When the competitors would introduce themselves they’d get to him and you’d hear, “Robbbuttt Bryan, LaGraaange, Nawth Carolina”. By the time it got to their third or fourth week, he was a certified celebrity on that show. Fifty-one years later I can still hear him clear as day. He later said his drawl got bigger on the show because of nerves.

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