As president of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Mark Davis invests in visionary young leaders who refresh the world... while sporting a refreshing style of his own.
Since its creation in 1986, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has provided scholarship support to more than 5,700 students who are committed to academic excellence, leadership and service.
“We have incredibly talented men and women in this program, and to see them care about each other, support each other, want to help each other accomplish whatever their goals and dreams are – that’s very, very rewarding,” Davis says.
And because the Foundation helps build lifelong connections, Davis has the privilege of watching Scholars grow during their schooling and in the years that follow.
A Man of Many Bowties
In the early 90’s, Davis’ predecessor introduced bowties to the position when he lost a bet over a college basketball game and had to wear one as punishment. After fully serving his bowtie time, he gifted the reminder of his team's loss to Davis, who quickly claimed the sartorial statement as his own.
A self-described risk-taker, Davis views his workwear staple as an extension of his personality.
“It speaks to me," he explains. "It says independence... and maybe a little bit of quirkiness.”
Davis wears a Coca-Cola bowtie converted from a vintage necktie to show company spirit, a green bowtie for days when he attends sustainability-focused meetings, and another spotted with library books as a nod to the Scholars Foundation’s commitment to education. He's also the proud owner of a few seasonable looks, including a spooky skeleton tie for Halloween and a shamrock tie Saint Patrick’s Day.
He also holds a substantial smattering of wildlife ties, fitting for someone who has “always been one to appreciate moose.” He even has a bowtie made out of a bowtie-patterned print. He has some that belonged to his father, several he received as gifts, and a few he just couldn’t resist buying.
His collection totals more than 85 pieces of neckware, earning him the nickname: “the Bowtie Guy.”
Davis’ office houses origami, cardboard and 3D-printed ties (see below) – mementos from Coke Scholars who remember him fondly both for his commitment to their education and his signature look.
For many Scholars, the bowtie is how they have come to identify and bond with Davis. “That’s the way many, many classes of Scholars have seen me,” he said. “They recognize me as Mark – he’s the guy with the bowtie.”
The look helps him appear approachable to high school seniors. It transmits warmth – a point of good-humored connection that might not otherwise exist between a teenager and a foundation president “getting up in the years.”
For high-achieving high schoolers, the bowties are also a visual reminder that imperfection has its charms. As Davis says, “It’s part of the symbolism of the bowtie. A bowtie should be pretty close to perfect, but it’s okay to be a little bit askew.”
After all, every Scholar is unique, with a story of his or her own – much like the bowties and their dapper owner.
Hannah Nemer is a summer intern at The Coca-Cola Company and a 2010 Coca-Cola Scholar.