History of the Churchill Scholarship

In the 1950s, as the establishment of Churchill College in Cambridge was becoming a reality, Sir Winston Churchill met with American friends to ask them to create a way for young Americans to study there. Among those friends was Lewis W. Douglas, who had served as the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain from 1947 to 1950. Carl Gilbert, chairman of the Gillette Company, became the first Chairman of the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States, which was established as a 501 (c) (3) US charity in 1959. He was followed by Douglas, and then by the financier John Loeb, Sr., whose family was the driving force behind the Foundation for many decades and continues to make up a significant proporation of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

In its early years, the Foundation made small travel grants to Churchill Overseas Fellows, distinguished senior faculty who would spend one year at the College. Nine of the Churchill Fellows won the Nobel Prize (see list below), including James Watson, who used the Foundation’s grant to continue his legendary collaboration with Francis Crick, researching the structure of DNA.

The first Churchill Scholarships, three in number, were awarded in 1963 and funded one year of study. Shortly thereafter the Scholarships were available either for one-year programs or for the three-year doctorate at Cambridge. In the early 1980s the Foundation decided to support only one-year programs in order to increase the number of Churchill Scholars.

Funding to support the Churchill Scholarship initially came from the Board Members and from industry. In the 1980s, funding was raised during gala dinners at which the Foundation granted the Churchill Award to an individual who has made outstanding contributions exemplifying Churchill’s attributes and ideals. Today, the Scholarship is supported through a combination of the Foundation’s investment reserves and through individual donations.


On receiving the Churchill Award, presented by HRH Queen Elizabeth II, in May, 1991, in the White House Rose Garden, President George H.W. Bush remarked, "I am old enough to remember from the World War II, Winston Churchill's leadership. He inspired the United Kingdom. He inspired everybody in this country as well, and I think [the Churchill Scholarship] is a marvelous symbol of the lasting special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States of America."

There have now been around 500 Churchill Scholars. This site has a database that lists all Churchill Scholars, their undergraduate institutions, and their departments at the University of Cambridge.

The Winston Churchill Foundation now awards no less than 15 Scholarships per year. The one-year awards lead to the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or the Master of Advanced Study (MASt).

List of Churchill Overseas Fellows who won the Nobel Prize

Felix Bloch (1952, Physics)
Arthur Kornberg (1959, Physiology or Medicine)
James D. Watson (1962, Physiology or Medicine)
George Wald (1967, Physiology or Medicine)
Har Gobind Khorana (1968, Physiology or Medicine)
Murray Gell-Mann (1969, Physics)
Kenneth J. Arrow (1972, Economics)
Philip W. Anderson (1977, Physics)
Roald Hoffmann (1981, Chemistry)

Winners of the Churchill Award

Averell Harriman 1981
Margaret Thatcher 1983
Ross Perot 1986
Ronald Reagan 1989
George H.W. Bush 1991


Sir Winston Churchill receiving an honorary degree from Harvard, September 1943
Clementine Spencer-Churchill Papers, Churchill Archives Centre


Portrait of John L. Loeb, Sr., by Salvador Dali

Having lived through two world wars, I regarded strong Anglo-American ties as essential. I therefore welcomed the opportunity to serve. When Lew [Douglas, US Ambassador to the UK, 1947-50] became ill, he asked me to carry on [as chairman]. Our family has been one of its main supporters ever since.

–John L. Loeb, Sr.
All in a Lifetime (1996, p. 268).