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Kathryn Wasserman Davis, Former Tarrytown Philanthropist, Dies At 106

Kathryn Wasserman Davis celebrates the reopening of the Kingsland Point Park Bathhouse in Sleepy Hollow in this file photo.
Kathryn Wasserman Davis celebrates the reopening of the Kingsland Point Park Bathhouse in Sleepy Hollow in this file photo. Photo Credit: Meredith Shamburger

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – Kathryn Wasserman Davis, a former Tarrytown resident and noted philanthropist, died Tuesday at her home in Hobe Sound, Fla. She was 106.

In Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, Davis played leading roles in the reopening of the Kingsland Point Park Bathhouse and adding to the RiverWalk Park in Tarrytown, as well preserving the Hudson River.

Davis was born in 1907 in Philadelphia, to a family that founded the carpet manufacturing company Art Loom. Davis's family traveled the world, including Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

She earned a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College in 1928, a master's degree in international relations from Columbia University in 1931 and a doctorate in political science from the University of Geneva in 1934.

In addition to authoring a book about the Soviet Union and the League of Nations, Davis was a noted philanthropist. She founded the 100 Projects for Peace program on her 100th birthday to fund peace-building initiatives around the world, donating $1 million. She donated an additional $3 million in grants over the next few years.

Davis married Shelby Cullom Davis, who would go on to become a wealthy, well-known financier and philanthropist, in 1932. Davis is survived by her daughter, Diana Davis Spencer, her son, Shelby M.C. Davis, eight grandchildren and 11 grandchildren.

She was awarded the 2007 Franny S. Reese Medal from Scenic Hudson for her work with the Hudson Valley, the 2006 EastWest Institute’s Peace and Conflict Prevention Prize, and the 2006 Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She earned honorary doctorates from Columbia University and Middlebury College.

Wellesley College said in an obituary Davis was their oldest-known alumna—and one of their “most beloved.” Davis served as a trustee emerita from 1984 to 2002.

“For nearly 85 years, she was committed to higher education and service to her community,” the statement said. “A passionate and thoughtful advocate, Kathryn's philanthropy supported all aspects of the College, including professorships, financial aid, global education initiatives, and building and landscape improvements.”

Davis remained active throughout her many years—enjoying an annual kayak trip with Scenic Hudson's Ned Sullivan in September 2012 at the age of 105.

The non-profit organization offered “heartfelt condolences” to Davis's family.

“Inspired by her adventurous spirit and zest for life, we look forward to working with the family to protect more lands along the Hudson and create new parks, adding to Kathryn Wasserman Davis’s legacy of enriching the lives of all who live in and visit this valley she loved so much,” the organization said in a statement.

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