Kathryn Wasserman Davis, 1907-2013

Kathryn Wasserman Davis visits the office of Marshall I. Goldman, Davis Center Senior Scholar and the Kathryn W. Davis Professor of Russian Economics, Emeritus, at Wellesley College, during a trip to Harvard University on May 8, 2008. Photograph by S. Failla.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

With sorrow we share the news that Kathryn Wasserman Davis passed away on April 23, 2013, at her home in Hobe Sound, Florida. She was 106.

In honor of a most generous pledge from the Davis family, Harvard's Russian Research Center (RRC) was renamed the Kathryn W. and Shelby Cullom Davis Center in April 1996, in honor of Mrs. Davis and her late husband. The Davis family's special commitment to undergraduate education has made possible the annual Undergraduate Colloquium on Russian and Eurasian Studies, which showcases research by students from Harvard, Wellesley College (Mrs. Davis's alma mater), and Wheaton College (alma mater of her daughter, Diana Davis Spencer). This event, now in its 18th year, has distinguished Russian studies and served as a model for meaningful undergraduate opportunities at Harvard.

Davis Center Senior Scholar Marshall I. Goldman, the Kathryn W. Davis Professor of Russian Economics, Emeritus, at Wellesley College, was instrumental in nurturing the Davis family's relationship with the RRC during his tenure as associate director. Mrs. Davis's interest in Russia—dating back to her young adulthood, when she traveled through the Caucasus on horseback on an anthropological expedition—has found expression in her support of Russian and international studies at several distinguished universities, colleges, and libraries.

A profound devotion to peace and understanding animated Mrs. Davis's life. Already in her twenties she published a book, The Soviets at Geneva: The USSR and the League of Nations, 1919-1933, and she maintained a deep commitment to international peace. An active outdoorsperson throughout her life, she was also an ardent supporter of environmental causes. On the occasion of her 100th birthday, she created Davis Projects for Peace, a program that funds 100 student summer projects aimed at increasing global understanding.

Mrs. Davis once commented on her family's decision to support Russian studies at Harvard: "During this turbulent period...it is imperative that we keep in close contact and try to make a reality of Russia's favorite toast—Mir i Druzhba, 'Peace and Friendship.'" Times remain turbulent, but the Davis Center remains committed to Mrs. Davis's aspiration for a greater American understanding of Russian politics and appreciation of Russian culture.