Shelby Davis’s visit to MUWCI

Everyone who is a part of the UWC movement is familiar with the name Shelby Davis. He has been a part of the UWC movement since 2000 when he set up the Davis UWC Scholars Program, the world’s largest international scholarship program for undergraduate education

The founders of the program, Mr. Shelby M.C. Davis and Mr. Philip O. Geier, believe in the UWC movement and what it is trying to achieve through its diverse student body. The Davis Scholarship Program and its scholars are “committed to building cross-cultural understanding across U.S. campuses and worldwide. The stability of our world and ensuring America’s place in it demand no less than an initiative this large in scale, innovative in design, and as powerful in impact.” (Davis Scholars web page). 

We had the honour of hosting Mr. Shelby Davis on our campus on 15 January 2023 during his visit to India. It was an eventful day for us, where we welcomed him and his wife, Mrs. Gale Davis, in traditional Indian attire and fanfare. The students received them with tilaks on their foreheads and garlands, dressed in sarees and kurtas. The students were excited to see them, as every UWC student knows about their impact on the lives of those who receive the scholarship. 

They arrived from Mumbai, and the welcoming committee then took them to the Multi-Purpose Hall (MPH), where the entire MUWCI Community was waiting for them. The day was planned to incorporate time to settle into the MPH, see some talented performances from our students, hear from the Head of College, Mr. Gaurav Chopra and participate in discussion with the Head of Advancement, Mr. Angad Patheja and some Davis Scholars. 

The questionnaire was interesting and engaging for the entire audience. And Mr. Davis’s candid responses and his sense of humour made the interaction a wonderful experience for all. Some of the questions addressed to him by Mr. Angad and the Davis Scholar students are given below:

  • Starting with your childhood, what did your parents do, and what did you learn from them?
  • What was College like for you? Any reflections you would like to share with us?
  • You always seemed to have two careers, one in finance and investing and one in philanthropy. Before discussing philanthropy, let’s talk about your career in finance and investing. What was your first job after College, and how did your career pan out?
  • Why and how did you decide to contribute to the UWC movement in general?
  • Could you picture your younger self doing what you do right now? If not, what else would you be doing?
  • What advice learnt in your teenage years would you give us?
  • What does philanthropy mean for you?
  • How has being associated with the UWC Movement contributed to your well-being?
  • Having given so much, have you ever expected anything in return? What does success look like through philanthropy for you?
  • We have read that, similar to your time in businesses, you also see an element of investing in your philanthropy. Can you elaborate on this?
  • Attending a UWC and then going to College in the USA is not easy to achieve, especially when you overcome socio-economic and language obstacles. However, you’re quite talented if you were able to accomplish this! One of my fears is that these gifted individuals may remain in the USA and thus won’t be able to contribute in meaningful ways to the development of their own countries. Is this a reasonable fear to have?
  • What would you say has been the highlight of all your years as a UWC supporter?

Mr. Davis’s honest answers to our questions were eye-opening and intriguing for the entire MUWCI Community – and his banter with Mrs. Davis kept the event light-hearted. The story of his journey to his current stature, his candid viewpoints on his homeland and how dreams can be achieved helped the students understand that no dream is too big if you have the will. 

We also received insights from students on what the visit meant to them and their takeaways from their interactions with Mr. and Mrs. Davis. 

When was the last time you met a billionaire? Let’s be frank, the word “billionaire” comes with its own set of stereotypes. So again, when was the last time you had the opportunity to meet a couple who had devoted not just their money but their time and efforts to positively impact the lives of thousands of students around the globe?

UWC Mahindra College had the privilege to welcome Gale and Shelby Davis on the hill. Many would remember the chilly morning of 15 January 2023, as the Helicopter landed on the football field- gushes of wind on our faces. The newly renovated Multi-Purpose Hall was inaugurated by their speeches and the energetic performances prepared by our students. He generously shared personal anecdotes from his life and lessons he learned along the way. He is genuinely a luminary for indiscriminately changing so many lives and imparting such opportunities! Students gained a lot from having personal conversations with them as they toured the campus. As he left that evening, acts of his altruism whirred much louder than the blades of the Helicopter flying away.

Shrey Vora (Class of ’24) 

The campus, and the MUWCI community living in it, were still recovering from reminiscing about the winter break when Shelby Davis’s arrival was announced. Although preparations were lurking around the corners of our daily schedules, the real excitement made its way on his actual arrival on 15 January. That was also the day when the newly renovated Multi-Purpose Hall, or the MPH, was to be revealed to us, and this doubled up the excitement that spread through the community. 

I remember conversing with my friend, and she shared how her kins asked her to say ‘thank you’ to this man for helping us with our further education, but our gratitude was expressed not literally but performatively through the talents displayed by MUWCI students. Sitting behind him, I could see him brush off tears as the MUWCI band sang ‘Hey Jude’. A very wholesome moment, followed by a timeline of inspirational moments and anecdotes from his life that Davis shared. Lunch, consisting of different cuisines though still highlighting the Indian cuisine, was another way the campus said ‘thank you’ to Davis for his generosity. Finally, with a little tour around the campus and contentful conversations with the students, Shelby and Gale Davis concluded their MUWCI visit as the students waved at the ascending Helicopter.

Iffat Ikram (Class of ’24) 

Thank you, Mr. Davis, for the impact you have had on the lives of hundreds of students through the years. We should all strive to give back to society as you have been doing for so many years. 

Author – Disha Aggarwal
Edited by – Angad Patheja


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