Sir Winston Churchill’s vision of a new college at the University of Cambridge went beyond that institution’s focus on science and technology and was, from its conception, an international venture to bring together citizens of the United Kingdom and the United States.
Not only was the national and Commonwealth tribute a reflection of Churchill’s desire to create an institution like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which had awarded Churchill a honorary degree after the War, it also sought to strengthen the ties --- scientific, technological, academic, and personal --- between his home country and the country made him its first honorary citizen. Early on in the development of the new college, Churchill met with American friends to ensure that there would be the opportunity for young Americans to study at Churchill College. Among those friends was Lewis W. Douglas, a graduate of Amherst College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Douglas enrolled the support of his friend Carl J. Gilbert, President of the Gillette Company in Boston, Massachusetts, and shortly afterwards on 10 July, 1959 the then-called United States Churchill Foundation was incorporated as the vehicle for the Churchill Scholarship:
The proposal to bring young Americans of outstanding promise to England for study at the most advanced levels, and to enlarge their horizons of international understanding, is one which I support with enthusiasm. I am honoured that this programme should bear my name.
Thus, the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States actually predates the Royal Charter for Churchill College and has been a steady companion of the College from its creation. The Foundation is the first and the only organization endorsed and promoted by Churchill himself. It honours Churchill’s name not by looking back at his past but by looking to the future of science and technology as drivers of global security and economic development and as a constant reminder of Anglo-American friendship.
The Churchill Scholarship Program selects young men and women of extraordinary talent and exceptional achievement from some one hundred American colleges and universities on the basis of an outstanding academic record, the capacity to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the sciences, engineering, or mathematics by pursuing original, creative work at an advanced level, and personal qualities. The Churchill Scholarship has been called the most academically challenging of the prestigious U.K. scholarships and has been named one of the top three American scholarships (along with the Marshall and the Rhodes). The Scholarship is one of the most generous of the U.K. scholarships paying all University and College fees, a generous living allowance, roundtrip travel to the United Kingdom, a travel award, and a possible special research grant.
By 2015, there will have been almost five hundred Churchill Scholars, who have typically earned the Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or the Master of Advanced Study (MASt). After Cambridge, the vast majority of the Scholars go on to pursue the PhD, MD, or MD-PhD in the most prestigious graduate programs in the United States. The Churchill Scholarship Program embodies Churchill’s pronouncement in accepting an honorary degree at Harvard University, 6 September 1943: 'The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.'