The world is in need of more humane and effective leaders. By providing students with the widest cultural, professional and personal growth opportunities, we empower them to expand their vision, test and develop their potential, and gain the confidence and perspective to do so for others.


Thomas J. Watson

Raised in rural upstate New York, Thomas J. Watson Sr. was best known for building IBM from its formation in 1914 until his passing in 1956. Now over a century old, IBM's teams built the American social security system, guided the first human flight to the moon, and re-invented cancer treatment. The Thomas J. Watson Research Center includes twelve labs on six continents and has produced six nobel laureates.

a picture of Thomas J Watson Senior

Thomas J. Watson, Sr.

Beyond Technology

Tom's work extended beyond technology to education, world affairs and the arts. He was a trustee of Columbia University from 1933 until 1956 and President of the International Chamber of Commerce from 1937-39. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Watson Library is one of the world's most comprehensive art history resources.

Upon Tom's passing, Jeannette, his wife of 43 years, was appointed to IBM's board of directors. She was one of the first women to assume this role in a public company.

photo of Albrecht Dürer's book at the Watson Library at the Met

Albrecht Dürer's Manual on Geometric Theory (1535) from the Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Foundation

In 1961, in Tom's honor, Jeannette created the Thomas J. Watson Foundation as a charitable trust. In 1968, their children, Helen (Buckner), Jane (Irwin), and Arthur and Thomas J. Watson, Jr., created the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to focus the foundation's work. The program's goal was to provide graduating college students 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". Those goals have stayed unchanged for over half a century.

photo of Watson Fellow Natalie Truong

Natalie Truong (W'12) A political science and english major, Natalie examined political speechwriting in open and closed communities in India, Singapore, Vietnam and Australia

In 1999, the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship was created to engage undergraduate students earlier in their college career and for a longer duration, exposing them to the world of work through challenging, cross sector internships and mentorship. 

The two programs resided in different cities -- Providence and New York -- until 2006 when the board united them in New York.

a picture of Jeannette K. Watson

Jeannette K. Watson

Past Directors

Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

From 1977-2012 Watson Fellows served 2-3 year terms as the program's director.

  • 2011-

    Chris Kasabach
  • 2008-2011

    Cleveland Johnson
  • 2006-2008

    Rosemary Macedo
  • 2003-2006

    Beverly J. Larson
  • 2001-2003

    Norv Brasch
  • 1999-2001

    Tori Haring-Smith
  • 1997-1999

    Noreen C. Tuross
  • 1995-1997

    William F. L. Moses
  • 1993-1995

    James A. Lehman
  • 1991-1993

    Mary E. Brooner
  • 1989-1991

    Steven V. Licata
  • 1987-1989

    Martin A. Brody
  • 1985-1987

    Nancy Y. Bekavac
  • 1983-1985

    Joseph V. Long, III
  • 1981-1983

    Jeanne C. Olivier
  • 1979-1981

    David C. Summers
  • 1977-1979

    John C. Elder
  • 1972-1977

    Daniel L. Arnaud
  • 1968-1972

    Robert O. Schulze, Founding Director
Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship
  • 2006-2012

    Frank Wolf
  • 1999-2006

    Alice Ilch­man, Found­ing Director