Sir David Wills

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Biographical Information

DAVID WILLS (died in 1999) "was one of the greatest but least-known benefactors of the post-war era. Probably his crowning achievement is the Ditchley Foundation which, since its inception in the 1950s, has matured into an internationally respected centre for conferences on a range of issues of moment affecting nations across the globe.

"There are other, less well-known causes that owe their origin either to Wills's initiative or financial backing or both. In conjunction with his cousin the second Lord Dulverton and the Dulverton Trust, the Michael Wills scholarships at Oxford for students from West and East Germany, now extended to Eastern Europe and Russia, were initiated by him to foster reconciliation after the Second World War, in memory of his brother Michael, who was killed in North Africa in 1943.

"The Sandford St Martin Trust was endowed, with its highly regarded award for excellence in religious broadcasting, given in alternate years for television and radio. With Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Sir George Schuster and Kurt Hahn, Wills was a founder member of the group which launched the Atlantic Colleges. In 1987 he established and funded the 21st Century Trust, devoted to bringing together young people of promise from across the world to debate topical issues of importance...

"David Wills was born in 1917 and educated at Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford. He served during the war with the Cameron Highlanders, contracting polio when he was with his battalion in the Caribbean area.

"Hugh David Hamilton Wills, philanthropist: born Miserden, Gloucestershire 19 June 1917; MBE 1946, CBE 1971; Chairman of Trustees, Rendcomb College 1955-83; Chairman, Ditchley Foundation 1972-83; Kt 1980; married 1949 Eva Kavanagh (one daughter, and one son deceased); died Sandford St Martin, Oxfordshire 10 December 1999." [1]

His widow, Lady Wills, is the Ditchley Foundation’s Honorary Life President and his daughter, Dr Catherine Wills, is closely involved as a Trustee of the Foundation.

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  1. Sir David Wills, organizational web page, accessed April 12, 2012.