Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."

Ten Years In

Message from Middlebury’s President Laurie L. Patton

I wish I had been in the audience that day in 2006 when the late Kathryn Davis accepted her honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Middlebury and addressed the crowd gathered for Language Schools Commencement. On that day, Kathryn announced the creation of two programs she believed would make a difference in the pursuit of peace throughout the world: Projects for Peace and Fellows for Peace.

She told the audience about her lifelong interest in Russian—and how critical the study of other languages and cultures could be in fostering a humanity more interested in collaboration than combat. What a privilege it would have been to see a woman nearing her hundredth birthday issue a powerful challenge to all who would survive her. Kathryn believed that understanding other ways of knowing is a critical antidote to conflict, and she wanted people dedicated to knowing other cultures to receive the best language education available.

Learning a foreign language isn’t easy; learning it well enough to unlock cultural understanding is even more difficult. Kathryn Davis recognized that individuals with the will to take on this challenge are worth supporting. For many Fellows for Peace, a summer in the Language Schools is nothing short of life changing—and many of them could never dream of attending without this fellowship.

Ten years in, it is not hyperbole to say that our Fellows for Peace go on to change the world. For proof, we need only survey the activities of 1,000 alumni fellows scattered across the globe. Amongst our alumni body, we have two MacArthur “genius grant” recipients, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and countless others whose hard work and remarkable accomplishments are no less worthy of regard.

This past summer alone, our campus was home to a veteran research scientist aligning conservation goals with poverty alleviation in Madagascar, an Army veteran launching sustainable energy projects in developing countries, a NASA professional collaborating with partners in the Middle East, and a human rights specialist responding to the Syrian refugee crisis. In 2016 you could encounter among Fellows for Peace 100 different stories, wildly diverse in detail but sharing a common purpose and passion.

I never had the opportunity to meet Kathryn Davis, but it is a tremendous honor to carry forward her legacy at Middlebury, buoyed by her spirit of generosity and hope for the future.