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September 12, 2013

September 12, 2013 | News Releases on

Heritage Foundation Receives Record-Breaking Gift

Davis Family Donates $26M to Further International Studies

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 12, 2013 – Following decades of strong support, the family of the late Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis announced that they have made a $26 million gift to advance the work and mission of the Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. 

The Davis family made the gift in memory of Shelby Cullom Davis, former ambassador to Switzerland, member of Heritage’s Board of Trustees from 1979 to 1992 and chairman from 1985 to1992, and Dr. Kathryn Davis, an adventurer, author and scholar who served as an honorary trustee of Heritage for many years. Both Shelby and Kathryn received the first Clare Boothe Luce Award, Heritage’s highest honor, in 1991 for their legacy of accomplishments for the conservative cause.

“Shelby and Kathryn’s legacy of advancing conservative principles through scholarship but also action will be continued in the Davis Institute with this gift,” said Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint. “We are grateful beyond words for the Davis family’s commitment to fostering the continuing research and development of policy proposals best calculated to spread the march of freedom, opportunity and prosperity around the globe.”

The Davis family has had a long relationship with The Heritage Foundation. The late Shelby Cullom Davis was an early and influential backer of Heritage’s mission, and his support led to the publication of Mandate for Leadership, which became a blueprint for President Reagan’s first term in office. He and his late wife Kathryn Wasserman Davis are the namesakes of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies. The Institute is Heritage’s base for research and analysis of foreign policy, international relations, global economics and national security. It now comprises multiple centers for research and policy development.

“I am proud to continue the leadership role my family has taken at The Heritage Foundation for over three decades,” said Diana Davis Spencer, Kathryn and Shelby’s daughter and the president of the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. “The Heritage Foundation’s values of free enterprise, individual freedom and a strong national defense are the same values we support today.”

“My grandfather Shelby lived the American Dream. He saw first hand how freedom was the core of America’s greatness and wanted other nations to enjoy the same opportunities,” said Chris Davis, Shelby and Kathryn’s grandson. “This is why we believe so strongly in the work of the Davis Institute at The Heritage Foundation.

Throughout his life, Shelby Cullom Davis maintained a keen interest in higher education. Educated at Princeton University and Columbia University, he received his doctorate in political science at the University of Geneva. He received numerous honorary degrees and published several academic works. Together with the Davis family, he endowed the Princeton Center for Historical Studies as well as professorships at Wellesley College, Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Trinity College and others.  During his tenure on Heritage’s board, and as chairman from 1985 to 1992, he oversaw the creation of programs to guide former communist governments toward political and economic freedom.

Kathryn Wasserman Davis, a lecturer, researcher, and writer, was a ready partner in the work of promoting freedom. A respected observer of the then-Soviet Union, Dr. Davis made numerous fact-finding trips there and spoke extensively on the Russian Republic, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Her doctoral dissertation, The Soviets at Geneva: The U.S.S.R. and the League of Nations 1919-1933, became a best-seller in Europe.

“I remember vividly traveling to the then-Soviet Union and China with Shelby and Kathryn trying to advance freedom in those communist countries. We also traveled together to chisel away pieces of the Berlin Wall after it fell, a goal that they worked tirelessly to achieve,” said Edwin J. Feulner, former president of The Heritage Foundation.

The Heritage Foundation is the nation's most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of donors. Founded in 1973, it develops and promotes policy solutions that advance free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values and a strong national defense.


The Heritage Foundation Board of Trustees, including Shelby (back row, third from the left) and Kathryn (second row, first on the left), visiting the Berlin Wall shortly after it fell in 1990.

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