Diana Davis Spencer ’60 knows students, lots of them.
When the trustee emerita talks about Wheaton, she peppers her comments with anecdotes about recent visits she’s had with current students as well as updates on the lives of recent graduates from every corner of the globe.
“I enjoy getting to know students,” Spencer says. “When I was a member of the Board of Trustees, serving on the Student Trustee Liaison Committee was a highlight for me.”
She still makes students her priority. Spencer traveled to campus in May before Commencement to share lunch with five Davis United World College scholars who were about to graduate. Since then, she has met with two of those students: one while passing through New York City; another visited her Washington, D.C., home.
And over the years, more than a few international students have celebrated the holidays at the Spencer home. “I grew up in a family that invited college students to come to our house for the holidays, and I’ve continued that tradition,” Spencer said, acknowledging the influence of her father, the late Shelby Cullom Davis, former U.S. ambassador to Switzerland, and her mother, Kathryn Wasserman Davis.
Spencer’s philanthropy reflects her commitment to the student experience and to globalizing the Wheaton curriculum. Recently, she contributed the funds to renovate and redecorate the Davis International House, helping to make the residence feel more welcoming.
“I wanted to make it feel like a home for the international students who live there, because I know they don’t get home for vacations very often, and I wanted to make it a hub of activity for all the students on campus,” she says.
The renovation continues her and her family’s long and generous support for global education at Wheaton.
“What’s important is to learn and embrace differences,” she says. “I think part of a college education should be about getting out of your comfort zone and reaching out to others who have different perspectives and backgrounds.
“I traveled a lot when I was young,” she reflects. “It was never the buildings that made an impact on me; it was the people whom I met.”