McKinley "Deacon" Davis was born in Freeport, Illinois on August 3, 1932. Davis was an All-Star basketball player throughout high school and college. In 1955, Davis graduated from the University of Iowa and became a member of the Harlem Globetrotters until 1957. While traveling around the country with the team, Davis studied the condition of American high schools. It was in these years, while continuing his education, that his vision developed for what would one day become the CHANCE (College Help & Assistance Necessary for College Education) Program.
In 1968, NIU President Rhoten Smith hired Davis as the Director of Special Programs and founder of the CHANCE Program. Davis stayed in that role until 1978 when he became the Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at NIU. Since 1968, the CHANCE Program has been a door of opportunity for many minority students to both enter and graduate from NIU. Deacon Davis helped to improve the status of minorities on the NIU campus. Davis passed away on March 20, 2003.