Why give back? | Abingdon Senior School

Why give back?
By Alexa Broad, Director of Development and Alumni Relations

“We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

Since my arrival at Abingdon School nearly two years ago I have enjoyed listening to many stories from OAs, former staff and parents conveying the deep affection they hold for the School. Unquestionably, the major focus of these memories is based on friendship and shared experiences, and for OAs, the appreciation of the commitment and excellence of the staff they encountered in their time here.

The end of the school year is a good moment for reflection, so it seems timely to consider where this affection and appreciation can lead. Where schools are concerned, significant acts of philanthropy are so often the direct result of long-held gratitude for an educational experience that helped shape a life. And by philanthropy I don’t just mean writing a cheque or filling in a donation form, although this is intrinsic to the act of philanthropy.

Philanthropy – literally the love of mankind.

Or as we would understand it nowadays, the practice of giving money to others without wanting anything in return. There is evidence of acts of philanthropy around us every day at Abingdon, you just may not know it’s there. For example, amongst the throng of Abingdonians going about their school days are over sixty pupils whose families receive financial assistance towards fees in the form of a bursary. A few of these pupils are supported throughout their Abingdon school career by one or perhaps two philanthropic individuals.

What makes someone decide to commit to such a decision? Especially when the chances are those individuals benefiting from such generosity will never know from whom it came.

Recently I caught up with one such donor when he came back to Abingdon. OA Peter Kandiah (1959) is one of a group of OAs who attended Abingdon School when it was better known as Roysse’s. Funded places were more widely available then under the Direct Grant scheme, and tuition was paid for by the local authority for local boys passing the 11 or 13 plus examinations. It would not have been possible for their families to send them to Abingdon otherwise. For Peter, giving takes on a very personal meaning:

“I, and many of my friends, benefited from the historic Direct Grant scheme and I am certain that many of us would not have been able to receive the excellent education offered by Roysse’s had we not passed the 11 plus or 13 plus examinations. I have no doubt that my time at the school contributed substantially to me being able to offer my bursary. I am happy to be able to give back.

I made a will a few years ago leaving a bursary – to cover the tuition fees throughout his school career – for an Abingdon boy from a local primary school. Sometime after, I decided that, as I was able to do so, I would donate my bursary during my lifetime. The boy I support has just completed his first year and his first reports are outstanding which brings great joy to me. I hope other OAs who are able to do so will consider following my example.”

Peter’s story is just one of the many reasons why people give back to the institutions that matter to them. It’s a high point of my work to enable people like Peter to witness the impact of their giving wherever possible, through his philanthropy new connections are forged and others are inspired.

On a previous entry on this page one of my colleagues wrote compellingly about gratitude, that through expressions of it we give back both to our society and the wider world. We really do make a life by what we give.

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