Watson Foundation

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Watson Foundation
Watson Logo.jpg
Founded1961;58 years ago (1961)
FoundersJeannette K. Watson
Website watson.foundation

The Watson Foundation is a charitable trust formed 1961 in honor of former chairman and CEO of IBM, Thomas J. Watson. [1] The Foundation’s stated vision is to empower students “to expand their vision, test and develop their potential, and gain confidence and perspective to do so for others.” [1] The Watson Foundation operates two programs, the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship. [2] [3]

IBM American multinational technology and consulting corporation

International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational information technology company headquartered in Armonk, New York, with operations in over 170 countries. The company began in 1911, founded in Endicott, New York, as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) and was renamed "International Business Machines" in 1924.

Thomas J. Watson American businessman

Thomas John Watson Sr. was an American businessman. He served as the chairman and CEO of International Business Machines (IBM). He oversaw the company's growth into an international force from 1914 to 1956. Watson developed IBM's management style and corporate culture from John Henry Patterson's training at NCR. He turned the company into a highly-effective selling organization, based largely on punched card tabulating machines. A leading self-made industrialist, he was one of the richest men of his time and was called the world's greatest salesman when he died in 1956.


The two programs were based in Providence and New York City, but in 2006 the two fellowships were united in New York. [4] [5]

In 2018 the Watson Foundation celebrated its 50th Anniversary. [5] The Foundation moved into its new offices in New York’s Woolworth Building that same year. [5]

Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a grant that enables graduating seniors to pursue a year of independent study outside the United States. [6] 1968 was the Fellowship's first year, providing graduates with a year to "explore with thoroughness a particular interest, test their aspirations and abilities, view their lives and American society in greater perspective and, concomitantly, develop a more informed sense of international concern". [1] In 2018, the fellowship celebrated its 50th anniversary. In that time, over 42,000 students submitted applications, and nearly 2,000 fellowships were awarded, making the fellowship similarly selective to the Rhodes or Marshall Scholarships. [7] Unlike those programs, only undergraduates in their senior year at 40 colleges are eligible to apply.

Rhodes Scholarship an international postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford

The Rhodes Scholarship is an international postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford. It was established in 1902, making it the first large-scale programme of international scholarship. The Rhodes Scholarship was founded by English businessman and politician Cecil John Rhodes, to promote unity between English-speaking nations and instill a sense of civic-minded leadership and moral fortitude in future leaders irrespective of their chosen career paths. Although initially restricted to male applicants from countries which are today within the British Commonwealth, as well as Germany and the United States, today the scholarship is open to applicants from all backgrounds and from across the globe. Since its creation, controversy has surrounded both its former exclusion of women, and Rhodes' white supremacist beliefs and legacy of colonialism.

Marshall Scholarship Scholarships for Americans to study in the UK, named in honor of George Marshall and the Marshall Plan

The Marshall Scholarship is a postgraduate scholarship for "intellectually distinguished young Americans [and] their country's future leaders" to study at any university in the United Kingdom. Created by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1953 as a living gift to the United States in recognition of the generosity of Secretary of State George C. Marshall and the Marshall Plan in the wake of World War II, the goal of the scholarship was to strengthen the Special Relationship between the two countries for "the good of mankind in this turbulent world." The scholarships are awarded by the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission and are largely funded by the British government.


The fellowship itself grants recipients money to spend one year traveling in pursuit of their projects. [8] Recipients are forbidden from reentering the United States and their home country for one year. Projects are not academically oriented, as the fellowship is intended to encourage exploration and new experiences rather than formal research. [9] Currently the award is $30,000 per fellow or $40,000 for a fellow traveling with a spouse or dependent. [10] The stipend also provides student loan repayment for the duration of the fellowship. [11] The Watson Foundation emphasizes that the grant is an investment in a person rather than a project. [12] During their travels the Fellows remain unaffiliated with a college or university, instead planning and administering their projects themselves. They are barred from working on a paying job, and are discouraged from joining organized volunteer projects for substantial periods of time.

Selection criteria

Qualities sought in fellows include: Leadership, Imagination, Independence, Emotional Maturity, Courage, Integrity, Resourcefulness, and Responsibility. [13] Institutions eligible to nominate Watson Fellows are 40 select small liberal arts colleges with an undergraduate population of fewer than 3,000 students: [14]

Notable Watson Fellows

Directors of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship

In 1999, the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship was created to expose undergraduate students to work through three successive summer internships and mentorship. [1] [32] The fellowship is a competitive academic grant made each year to fifteen undergraduates nominated by 12 affiliated New York City colleges which provides successive summer experiences for three years, stipends, mentoring, seminars, and discovery fund. [33]

The fellowship is named after Jeannette K. Watson, the first female member of the IBM Board of Directors, and wife of Thomas J. Watson. [1]

During their first summer, Jeannette K. Watson Fellows intern at a New York City based partner, while the second and third summers can be in New York City, anywhere else in the United States, or overseas. [34] Over the three year fellowship, fellows must go overseas at least once. Fellows are awarded three successive annual grants of $5,500, $6,500, $7,000 in addition to a $2,000 discovery fund. [35] Fellows have gone on to win prestigious awards like the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the Fulbright Program, and The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. They have also gone on to graduate school at the University of Oxford, Harvard University, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Selection criteria

Qualities sought include high standards, ambition, openness, desire to explore diverse cultures and new professional fields, willingness to act on feedback, leadership, ability to work in groups, integrity and accountability, and a strong academic record. [36] The following 12 partnering colleges nominate up to four candidates to be considered in a citywide selections process.

Eligible institutions


The Fellowship was established by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation in 1999. Its founding Director, the late Alice Stone Ilchman, former President of Sarah Lawrence College and Elizabeth Buckner, former Board of Advisors member, developed the original idea for the Fellowship and began working with eight colleges. [37] Frank Wolf, its second director, served from 2006 until his retirement in 2012. [38] Dean Emeritus of the School of Continuing Education at Columbia University, Wolf extended participation to four additional New York City colleges and expanded substantially the Fellowship's internships in the for-profit sector. In 2012 the Foundation combined the directorships of its two programs with the appointment of Chris Kasabach as the Executive Director of the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.

Directors the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship

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  29. “John Elder”, ‘‘Middlebury College’’, July 26, 2012. Retrieve 2018-04-27.
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  31. “Local Students Awarded Fellowships to Study Abroad”, ‘‘Montclair Tribute’’, April 6, 1972. Retrieve 2018-04-27.
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