Kathryn Wasserman Davis '28
With sadness, Wellesley College reports the passing of Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28, who died on April 23, 2013, at her home in Hobe Sound, Fla., surrounded by her children.
At 106 years old, she was the oldest known Wellesley alumna. She was also one of the College’s most dedicated and loyal alumnae. For nearly 85 years, Kathryn was committed to higher education and service to her community. A Trustee Emerita—she served on the Wellesley College Board of Trustees from 1984 to 2002—Kathryn was a longtime volunteer for Wellesley’s Office for Resources and was actively involved in the Alumnae Association for many years. While living in Switzerland in the early 1970s, Kathryn started the Wellesley Club of Switzerland and hosted an annual luncheon for Wellesley students and alumnae in the area. She delighted in returning to campus for numerous Reunions, including her 80th Reunion in 2008, when she received the Alumnae Association’s Syrena Stackpole Award to honor her longstanding devotion to the College.
Kathryn also holds the distinction of being the College’s most generous donor, having contributed more than $50 million to Wellesley over her lifetime, and having participated in the College’s six fundraising campaigns since her graduation in 1928. Her memory will live on in many ways at Wellesley, not the least of which is through the Davis Museum and Cultural Center—named for Kathryn and her late husband, Shelby Cullom Davis—as well as through the many other pursuits in which she believed, including financial aid for students, global education initiatives, professorships in Asian and Slavic studies, and restoring the campus landscape. Her vision enabled Wellesley to return Alumnae Valley—which was a parking lot at the time—to its original beauty, with the creation of the Davis Parking Facility in 2005.
In 2007, on the occasion of her 100th birthday, Kathryn established the 100 Projects for Peace to fund creative student initiatives throughout the world focused on building peace in the 21st century.
Her most recent gift to the College represented her commitment to peace, justice, and art. This spring, a banner will be installed on an exterior wall of the Davis portraying a dove and an olive branch. That banner will complement Charming, an indoor installation of origami hummingbirds, symbols of tenacity and the power of small efforts to make big change, which is currently on view inside the museum.
For 106 years, Kathryn led a full and well-rounded life, and was an exemplary alumna who, through her philanthropy and the causes she championed, truly made a difference in our world.
The Wellesley community will celebrate Kathryn's life with a memorial service on campus in the fall. You can read the personal reflections of Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly about Kathryn at The HKBlog.