By Jennifer Rowland
United World College-USA
Kathryn Wasserman Davis, a philanthropist and noted “visionary for peace” whose generosity has touched dozens of United World College students, died last Tuesday at the age of 106.
An inspiration to all who knew her, Kathryn kayaked, swam, painted, traveled, and played a fierce game of croquet well into her 90s. This year, she told UWC-USA President Lisa Darling that her goal was to make a new friend everyday — and that friend should be as committed to peace as she was.
In 2004, Mrs. Davis gave her first scholarship gift to UWC-USA. She later transformed her annual scholarship support into an endowment, funding four UWC-USA scholarships to support female Muslim students in perpetuity. In addition to the Kathryn Davis Scholarships for Muslim girls, Mrs. Davis will be remembered in Montezuma for the Kathryn Davis Student Center and the Kathryn Davis Tennis Courts.
For her 100th birthday, Mrs. Davis endowed the Davis Projects for Peace, a program that funds 100 student projects every summer focused on increasing global understanding. “I want to use my birthday to once again help young people launch some initiatives that will bring new energy and ideas to the prospects of peace in the world,” she declared. Many of the recipients have included UWC students, and projects have spanned from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
Mrs. Davis learned about UWC-USA from her son Shelby, a distinguished trustee of UWC-USA and UWC International Patron. Every year, the Davis Scholarship provides full merit-based scholarships to 50 U.S. students to attend the 12 UWC schools and colleges.
Additionally, Davis UWC Scholarships provide funding to UWC alumni to attend colleges and universities in the U.S.
“Through their remarkable generosity, Shelby Davis and his mother have had an enormous impact on international education and global development,” Darling says.
“From the opportunities they’ve provided to young students to the initiatives that were made possible through Projects for Peace grants, the influence they’ve had is immeasurable.”
Mrs. Davis received her doctorate from the University of Geneva in Switzerland; her dissertation, The Soviets in Geneva, became a bestseller in Europe. She continued to write, travel, and lecture on world affairs and had a keen interest in Russia and the Soviet Union.
It was this shared fascination with international relations that brought Mrs. Davis and her husband, Shelby Cullom Davis, together in 1930. Mrs. Davis, whose father Joseph Wasserman was the chairman of Artloom Corp. in Philadelphia, provided seed capital to her husband that allowed him to form Shelby Cullom Davis & Co.
Institutions named in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Davis include The Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University; the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Mrs. Davis’ alma mater; the Kathryn W. and Shelby Cullom ’30 International Center at Princeton University; The Kathryn Wasserman Davis School of Russian at Middlebury College; professorships at Princeton, Columbia, and Trinity College; The Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation; libraries at Bradley University and the Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University; and the Kathryn W. Davis Center for International & Regional Studies at College of the Atlantic.
Mrs. Davis is survived by her son, Shelby M.C. Davis, her daughter Diana Davis Spencer, eight grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.