The CHANCE Program is named for its founder, McKinley "Deacon" Davis.
Davis was born in Freeport, Illinois. He graduated from Freeport Senior High School where he was a player on the 1951 State Championship basketball team. In that same year, he was recognized as a member of the All-State Basketball team.
From there, Deacon went to the University of Iowa where he graduated in 1955. While at Iowa, he was named to the 2nd Team All-American and 1st Team in the All-Big Ten Conference.
From 1955 to 1957, Deacon was a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. In those years, he traveled around the country with the team, studying the condition of American high schools in his downtime. It was in these years while continuing his education that his vision developed for what would one day become the CHANCE program.
In 1968, NIU President Rhoten Smith hired Deacon as the director of special programs and founder of the CHANCE Program. Deacon stayed in that role until 1978 when he became the Executive Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at NIU.
From 1983 until he died in 2003, Deacon worked at Primerica Financial Services/Travelers Group as a national sales director for the firm.
In January 2004, NIU President John Peters rededicated the CHANCE program as "The McKinley 'Deacon' Davis CHANCE Program."