WASHINGTON, April 23, 2013—Dr. Kathryn Davis, a Heritage Foundation honorary trustee whose generosity and leadership helped establish the prominent think tank’s foreign policy credentials, has died. She was 106 years old.
Davis, with her husband Shelby Cullom Davis, established the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies in 1997 – allowing Heritage to become a force for conservative ideas around the globe.
“Kathryn was an adventurer and a scholar and The Heritage Foundation owes a lot to her and her late husband for our success in foreign and defense studies,” said Heritage Founder Edwin J. Feulner. “We couldn’t do our job without them.”
One of the Davis Institute’s major policy products is the annual Index of Economic Freedom. Co-published with The Wall Street Journal, the Index – which measures the economic freedom of countries around the world – has grown to become a must-have guide for foreign leaders, policymakers and financial analysts.
The Davis Institute has grown as well. It is now home to about 35 foreign policy experts and researchers. Covering nearly every aspect of foreign policy, the Davis Institute comprises four study centers: the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, the Asian Studies Center, the Center for International Trade and Economics and the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom. Davis always spoke proudly of her association with Heritage, as did her husband. “We think Heritage is the best conservative organization that we have working in foreign affairs,” she said in a 2001 interview with Heritage Today, one of the think tank’s newsletters.
Mr. Davis, an investment banker, who was Heritage’s board chairman from 1985 to 1992. He died in 1994 at the age of 85. Today their granddaughter, Abby Moffat, serves on the board.
Kathryn Davis had an interest in foreign affairs the spanned most of the 20th century. In 1929, following her graduation from Wellesley College, she rode on horseback through the Caucasus Mountains in search of an obscure Muslim tribe. In 1932, she received a master’s degree from Columbia University, and three years later she received a doctorate from the University of Geneva. That same year, 1934, she published the book, Soviets At Geneva. She also worked during the 1930s as a researcher for the Council on Foreign Relations.
Davis and her husband began contributing to Heritage in 1979. They received the first Clare Boothe Luce Award, the think tank’s highest honor, in 1991 “for all that you have accomplished, especially for the conservative cause.”
Davis served as a partner of Shelby Cullom Davis & Co., and as chairwoman and trustee of the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation. In addition to her many other activities, Davis was a trustee at Wellesley, a past president of the League of Women Voters, and has endowed a Russian studies center at Harvard University.