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Sidebar: A Global Investment in Youth

May 13, 2010

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    On October 12, 2009, Lewis & Clark hosted a special reception for Shelby Davis (at podium) and his wife, Gale, in honor of their commitment to the Davis UWC Scholars Program. This year, 31 Davis UWC Scholars from 23 countries are studying at Lewis & Clark.

Roger Paget and Shelby Davis were best friends when they were both growing up in the suburbs of New York City, during and immediately after World War II.

Paget, institutional professor emeritus of political economy and Asian studies at Lewis & Clark, vividly recalls high jinks with Davis like standing above the railroad tracks and getting covered in soot when the coal-fired engines passed beneath. “We managed to get into our share of trouble,” he chuckles. Eventually, Davis moved to a new school, and the two friends lost touch.

A couple of years ago, watching the nightly news at home in Portland, Paget recognized a man wearing a grin he had not seen in more than 60 years.

“That’s Shelby!” he shouted at the television.

The news segment was about a new initiative called the Davis United World College (UWC) Scholars Program. Paget was delighted to learn the next day that Lewis & Clark was already part of the program. When he reached out to his childhood friend, the two rekindled their relationship. In the summer of 2008, Paget and his wife, Tana, traveled to Maine to see Shelby Davis, and in October 2009, Davis and his wife, Gale, came to Portland to visit the Pagets and Lewis & Clark.

In his youth, Shelby Davis studied history at Princeton. He went on to found Davis Advisors, a prestigious investment firm based in Boston. He has long maintained a relatively low profile, but made a major impact when he launched the Davis UWC Scholars Program in 2000. To date, he’s invested more than $200 million in the program, making him one of the nation’s largest donors to international education.

His mother, Kathryn Wasserman Davis, is also a recognized philanthropist. On her 100th birthday, in February 2007, Mrs. Davis chose to celebrate by committing $1 million to launch 100 Projects for Peace. Now in its fourth year, the initiative provides $10,000 grants to undergraduates at American colleges and universities to design grassroots projects to advance peace in the world. Lewis & Clark students have submitted winning proposals each of the last four years.

When Shelby and Gale Davis visited the Lewis & Clark campus, they met with students and faculty and attended a campus reception in their honor. Interim President Jane Atkinson called the Davis UWC Scholars model students who demonstrate “how to communicate, learn, and grow in a multicultural setting. They have much to teach the rest of us about what it means to be global citizens and how we can further advance the global dimensions of our educational community.”

Davis himself appeared to enjoy the opportunity to meet with the Lewis & Clark community. He explained to the audience why philanthropy is so important. “My family’s philosophy has long been to look at life in periods of 30 years,” he explained. ”We are to spend the first 30 years learning, the second 30 years earning, and the next 30 years returning. With the Davis UWC Scholars Program, I am involved in the returning phase.”

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