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Davis United World College Scholars


We Are a Happy Team – Reflections on Visiting UWCs

On our trip to four UWC schools last fall, as I usually do, I reminded students of our Davis family road map for life’s journey: for 30 years focus on learning, for the next 30 years focus on earning, and for the last 30 years or more, focus on returning for the betterment of the world you leave behind.

I also talked about my two careers — my investment career first, and for the last 20-plus years, my philanthropic career. In both, I had a tremendous tailwind and have been incredibly lucky.

During the last 25 years of my investment career, the stock market went up tenfold and the money rolled in. In my philanthropic career of 20 years so far, we have built a UWC scholarship program that keeps growing and getting more expensive, and the money is rolling out. But that is as it should be. When I say this to students, I usually get a nervous laugh, so I have to quickly reassure them that their education is secure and will be for the foreseeable future.

In philanthropy, I was extremely lucky early on to meet my partner, Phil Geier, who was the head of the UWC school in the United States. He has a Ph.D., had been an international educator and knew instinctively what was coming. He is also an incredibly hard worker and we meshed well together as we designed a scholarship program in the year 2000 for all UWC students.

Once again, we got a tailwind as educators everywhere in the United States wished to globalize their campuses to prepare their students for a global workplace and lots of disruptive change as new technologies went mainstream.

And again, we were in the right place at the right time with a delivery system of UWC students from 160 countries who all spoke our native language, English, and had graduated from UWC schools with an International Baccalaureate degree.

We encouraged all UWC graduates who desired to come to our United States partner colleges and universities — now over 90 — to apply and, if they got accepted and applied for need-based financial aid and matriculated, we would be part of their financial aid package.

They do all of this on their own. We help fund their undergraduate scholarships at each institution and continue doing so for up to four years. The program took off and has grown annually. This academic year will see almost 1,000 first-years arrive on partner campuses versus 43 when we started 20 years ago. Cumulatively, we have supported almost 10,500 students; most have graduated or are in college now.

In my investment career I made it a habit to visit companies we were invested in to check up on our investments. Phil and I annually visit UWC schools all over the world and universities in the United States. It is an old habit, but we find it keeps us energized and engagedand more optimistic about our world as we strive to make a difference. Also, the presidents, deans, and professors praise these students for leadership and reliability, and their ability to mix with others and take advantage of all that is offered, while becoming role models for others. I hear this often and gratefully thank them for making the two founders look so good! We are sure they will be a force for good in the world whatever they do and wherever they live. Students tell us over and over that their UWC experience was lifechanging and an education like no other.

They want to live by UWC’s mission statement, which says it all: “UWC makes education a force to unite peoples, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.” Already we see our graduates in action with countless examples of them giving back to help our world. We feature some in all our annual reports.

It is certainly true that education keeps getting more expensive and this program rises in cost annually. We have no plans to stop our growth. And very long term, I dare to dream that someday a UWC graduate who has hit it big time and gotten a big monetary tailwind will join us in this effort. When all is said and done, it makes a lot of sense because, after all, every student had two parents! In the meantime, I encourage them all to get the good habit of saving and giving back annually any way they can, to their alma maters who — along with their own hard work — got them this far. It is the right thing to do.

We look forward with confidence and are gratified daily by the stream of letters coming from our students expressing thanks and sharing their hopes and dreams. We are a happy team.