During the past 40 years, more than 100 graduating Vanderbilt women have had the once-in-a lifetime chance to begin their careers at world-renowned Lloyd’s of London, thanks to the generosity of one man.
In 1969, Walter C. Wattles, BA’36, established a fellowship to allow women to live in London for one year after graduation, working as underwriters and brokers.
“[Wattles fellows] were the first women to do business on the floor of Lloyd’s,” says Anne Horsley Riegle, BS’83, a former Wattles fellow. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to experience international business, and that experience translates into any job opportunity.”
When Wattles, a prominent insurance executive, first began sending female college graduates to Lloyd’s in 1969, the fellows held mostly clerical positions. Beginning in 1978, Wattles sent only Vanderbilt graduates, with the women’s responsibilities becoming more demanding each year. Past fellows have gone on to become doctors, lawyers and stock brokers; some have continued to work for Lloyd’s and its American affiliate companies.
Walter Wattles literally grew up on the Vanderbilt campus. His mother, Myrta Woodson Wattles, managed the old Wesley Hall, where she also lived with her young family.
Wattles was 95 when he died last June.
For many years the management and process of selecting Wattles Fellows was overseen by Walter Wattles and a committee made up of former recipients. In recent years the fellowship in its entirety was transferred to the Wattles Board, composed primarily of former participants. Vanderbilt no longer oversees the funds received for the fellowship.
Because of changes in visa laws in the United Kingdom, the Wattles Program has not been able to send fellows to London for 2009–10, but its overseers hope to resume the program soon.