One of the most influential figures of the 20th Century, in international education, Hahn was born in Germany in 1886 to Jewish parents. Kurt Hahn was educated in Germany and then in Oxford, before World War I brought him back to Germany. His early interest in education as a force for good was crystallised by the destruction he witnessed during the war, and with the support of Prince Max von Baden, the last imperial chancellor in Germany, in 1920 Hahn founded Salem School in Germany, based on respect for the individual, responsibility to the community and an awareness of the importance of the democratic process in sustaining both. In 1933, Hahn was exiled to the UK after speaking out against the Nazis, and founded Gordonstoun School in Scotland, based on the four pillars of internationalism, challenge, responsibility and service.
Hahn played key roles in the founding of the Outward Bound Organisation, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, and founded the UWC movement with Atlantic College in 1962. While attending the 1958 NATO Staff Conference, he was inspired by the cooperation he witnessed between former adversaries from World War II. He thought that if we could educate young people from around the world together, we could prevent future conflicts. From this belief in the power of education to change the world, the UWC movement was born, with a mission to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. In 1962, the first UWC, Atlantic College, was opened in Wales.
Hahn died in Germany in 1974. The entry in Britain’s Dictionary of National Biography calls him “headmaster and citizen of humanity.” His legacy remains one of the most vital and important in the history of internationally-minded education.
“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.”
When becoming President of the UWC movement in 1967, Lord Louis Mountbatten was one of the most decorated and important diplomats and military figures of his time. Of royal peerage, Mountbatten grew up in a prominent military family, his father having served as First Sea Lord of the British Navy during the early part of WWI. Seeing action during both WWI and WWII, Mountbatten rose through the ranks of the military and diplomatic worlds, eventually becoming First Sea Lord himself in 1954, and head of the British Armed Forces in 1959 as Chief of the Defence Staff. Upon retiring, Mountbatten devoted his life to international affairs and the avoidance of conflict, with UWC becoming one of his most prominent interests. During his tenure as UWC President, Mountbatten grew the movement significantly around the world, including UWC South East Asia in Singapore in 1971 and the Lester B. Pearson UWC of the Pacific near Victoria, British Columbia, in 1974. In 1978, Mountbatten passed the UWC presidency onto his great-nephew, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales.
Assuming the UWC presidency in 1978 from his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales has championed many humanitarian causes and raised awareness for a huge number of social issues over the course of his public life. A passionate environmentalist, HRH has been at the heart of raising awareness for climate change. In founding the Prince’s Trust in 1976, he leads sixteen charities and serves at the helm of the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the UK, raising an estimated £100 million annually. Serving as President of the UWC movement from 1978 until 1995, HRH oversaw the rapid and drastic growth of the movement to nine schools and colleges worldwide by the time of his stepping aside, including the UWC-USA campus which he helped open in 1982. Remaining active in educational issues to this day, HRH’s contributions to the prominence and growth of the UWC movement continue to be felt today.
HM Queen Noor of Jordan is the current President of the UWC movement, having joined in 1995 when she took over the role from HRH Charles, Prince of Wales. The queen consort of Jordan from 1978 until King Hussein’s death in 1999, she now acts as the queen dowager of Jordan. Born in Washington, D.C., to an Arab-American family, she has spent the past 40 years in the public eye and in public service. Much of her work, both in Jordan and internationally, has focused on education, human rights, sustainable development, and cross-cultural understanding. Championing youth empowerment and women’s rights, as well as the arts and sciences, Queen Noor continues to demonstrate her commitment to positive social change, peace-building and conflict resolution in all of her many roles, including that of President of the UWC movement. Additionally, her daughter attended UWC Atlantic College
Considered by many as the father of modern South Africa, and one of the most important figures in global political history, President Nelson Mandela served as South Africa’s first democratically elected leader from 1995 until 1999. A political activist, prisoner, and social justice campaigner for his entire public life, Mandela oversaw the transformation of South Africa from a nation divided by a brutal apartheid system to the ‘Rainbow Nation’ that we see today. South Africa’s first black head of state, Mandela’s ethos of reconciliation and dialogue over revenge and division earned him near-universal plaudits around the world. Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, among 250 additional honours, Mandela’s presidency of the United World College’s began in 1995, when he took up a joint presidency with HM Queen Noor of Jordan. In 1999, he became UWC Honorary President of UWC. Additionally, his children and grandchildren attended Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa, further deepening his connection to the movement and our shared ideals of peace, international understanding, and sustainable futures.
Shelby Davis is one of UWC’s greatest-ever supporters, with his family’s involvement with the UWC movement going back to the year 1998. With a highly successful investment and fund management career, Davis devoted his personal and financial energies to a number of philanthropic aims, focusing on education. Since the late 1990s, Shelby Davis has provided the funds for 50 scholarships per year for US American students to attend UWCs, of the 50 recipients, 25 attend UWC-USA; the rest are offered places at one of the other UWC schools. In 2000, adding to his involvement with the UWC movement, Davis started the Davis-UWC Scholars Programme, which, to date, has provided need-based university scholarships for more than 7,500 UWC graduates enrolled at over 90 U.S. colleges and universities. Shelby Davis continues to support UWC in many different ways, and in August 2015, offered UWC International a matching challenge of an additional USD $15 million. In a direct challenge to the UWC community, charitable donations from UWC alumni, their families and other individual supporters to the then 15 UWC institutions will be matched up to the value of USD $1 million per UWC school or college. The named Davis-UWC IMPACT Challenge ensures UWC can continue to award places to students based on merit, irrespective of their background.
Lord Attenborough and his wife Sheila were long-term supporters of UWC Waterford Kamhlaba, which he had visited during his research for the making of the movie “Cry Freedom”. He became an active member of the Governing Council of Waterford Kamhlaba UWC for many years and Chairman of its fundraising body in the UK – the Waterford School Trust (WST) – in recent years serving as the President of the WST. He became a Member of the UWC International Board in the 1990s and thereafter, Patron.
During his extraordinary career as an actor and film-maker, Lord Attenborough had taken every opportunity to work for peace and justice and to support disadvantaged people in every walk of life.