Kathryn Wasserman Davis, a philanthropist noted for her efforts to promote international understanding, and her son, Shelby M. C. Davis, a member of Princeton’s Class of 1958 and a University trustee, have made a $5 million gift that will provide ongoing support for Princeton’s International Center and allow it to expand and enhance its activities.
Davis, who just turned 100, is the widow of Shelby Cullom Davis, a member of the Princeton Class of 1930 and U.S. ambassador to Switzerland from 1969 to 1975. In their honor, the center—which runs numerous programs to make the 1,700 international students and scholars in residence at Princeton feel at home—will be named the Kathryn W. and Shelby Cullom Davis ’30 International Center at Princeton University.
“We are grateful to Kathryn Davis and her son, Shelby, for this very generous gift, which reflects her own engagement with the world and her strong support for global learning,” said President Shirley M. Tilghman. “The International Center is now in a better position than ever before to strengthen the multicultural character of our University community and to help the students and scholars who come to Princeton from around the world to thrive here.”
The International Center, founded and led by Paula K. Chow, works to familiarize the University’s international community with America—and to teach Americans more about the rest of the world. “The International Center is dedicated to fostering dialogue at a time when misunderstandings between nations and cultures could pose a serious threat,” Davis said. “I have been deeply impressed by Paula’s energetic leadership of the center, and I know my husband, who was passionate about encouraging cross-cultural exchange, would be as thrilled about this gift as I am.”
Chow, a native of Shanghai, was inspired to launch the center in 1974 by those who helped her after she arrived in the United States at age 17 to attend college. “I have learned so much about humanity and the world from the friends I have made here,” Chow said, “and I am thrilled that Kathryn's and Shelby's generosity will ensure that we can offer that experience to future generations.” Today, the center, located in the Frist Campus Center, assists students and scholars from more than 80 different nations, offering them programs ranging from English-language tutoring and weekly luncheons with faculty members to introductions to “host families.” It also sponsors events to educate the University and local community, among them an international festival in April, lunchtime talks about such subjects as the role of women in different cultures, and video programs in which students and faculty members discuss international issues. With the Davises’ gift, the center will now be able to increase—and deepen—its offerings.
Kathryn Davis has been a student of world affairs for much of her life. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1928, she earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and a PhD in political science from the University of Geneva.
She has worked for the Council on Foreign Relations and is the author of The Soviets at Geneva: The U.S.S.R. and the League of Nations, 1919-1933. Davis has also traveled widely and visited Russia more than 30 times. In 2006 she received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Washington, D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Davis recently celebrated her centennial birthday by sponsoring “100 Projects for Peace,” a national competition to recognize and support 100 different proposals by young people for building peace in the world.
The Davis family has a long history of giving to Princeton, beginning with Shelby Cullom Davis ’30, whose gifts were instrumental in shaping and strengthening the University’s Department of History and funded the creation of the Davis Center for Historical Studies. Shelby M. C. Davis ’58, son of Shelby Cullom Davis and Kathryn Davis, has also worked to advance international exchange: He and his wife, Gale, founded the Davis United World College Scholars program, which awards scholarships to students who graduate from a United World College school and then attend one of 76 designated U.S. colleges or universities, including Princeton. United World College is an organization of 12 pre-university schools around the world, all dedicated to promoting international understanding. There are 87 Davis UWC Scholars on the Princeton campus this year.