Kathryn W. Davis, founder of Projects for Peace, demonstrates the profound impact one person’s commitment to peace can have on the world. Through her support for education, cultural exchange, and grassroots initiatives, she created opportunities for thousands of college students to contribute to a more peaceful and just global society.

Today, The Davis Projects for Peace stands as a testament to her vision and continues to inspire new generations of peacebuilders. Her legacy is a reminder that, regardless of age or background, everyone has the potential to contribute to a more harmonious world.

Early Life and Education

Born on February 25, 1907, in Philadelphia, Kathryn Wasserman Davis exhibited a keen interest in global affairs from a young age. This was nurtured by her parents who valued education and cultural exposure. Davis graduated from Wellesley College in 1928 with a degree in political science and went on to earn a master’s degree from Columbia University.

Her master’s thesis on the political dynamics of the Soviet Union was published, marking the beginning of her lifelong engagement with international relations and peacebuilding.

Philanthropy and Peacebuilding

Katheryn traveled extensively, engaging with cultures and political systems to deepen her understanding of global conflicts. What stood out was the importance of dialogue and cooperation. Her marriage to Shelby Cullom Davis, an investment banker and U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, further broadened her international perspective.

Throughout her life, Davis was involved in numerous philanthropic activities. She supported educational institutions, international exchange programs, and cultural initiatives. Her philanthropic philosophy was based on the belief that education and mutual understanding were essential to foster peace.

Projects for Peace

In 2007, at the age of 100, Kathryn W. Davis launched the Davis Projects for Peace initiative with a remarkable $1 million donation. The mission was to encourage and fund grassroots projects to promote peace designed by college students. This initiative was a part of the Davis United World College Scholars Program.

Katheryn’s intention was to inspire young people to develop and implement their ideas for building peace in their communities and beyond. Each year, students from participating institutions are invited to design projects that address root causes of conflict and contribute to global peace. The most compelling proposals are awarded $10,000 grants to bring these projects to life.

Her Impact and Legacy

Since its beginning, Davis Projects for Peace has funded over 1,500 projects in more than 100 countries. The initiative has empowered students to address a wide range of issues, from education and healthcare to environmental sustainability and intercultural dialogue. These projects have not only had a tangible impact on the communities they serve, but have also shaped the lives and careers of the students involved.

One notable project was implemented in Rwanda, where students from Earlham College created a peace education program for youth affected by the 1994 genocide. In another impactful, students from Macalester College promoted interfaith dialogue and understanding among different religious communities in Myanmar.

In addition, these remarkable initiatives produced a network of young peacebuilders who continue to collaborate and share their experiences. This growing community of alumni remains dedicated to the principles of peace and cooperation that Davis championed.

Kathryn’s Enduring Influence

Kathryn Davis passed away on April 23, 2013, at the age of 106, but her legacy lives on through the countless lives she touched and the enduring impact of her work. Her vision of empowering youth to build peace proved to be a powerful force for change. The projects continue to demonstrate the immense potential of grassroots efforts to address global challenges.

The Davis Projects for Peace continues to thrive, supported by the Davis family and the network of institutions and students who share Kathryn Davis’s commitment to peace. Each year, new projects are implemented, reinforcing her belief that one person’s vision, combined with the energy and creativity of young people, can impact the world.