A little story my father told me

Oxford college to be renamed after budget airline tycoon who made £155m donation
Linacre College, founded in 1962, will change its name after a ‘landmark gift’ from female billionaire who owns ‘bikini airline’ VietJet Air

So, back when, a bloke had made his pile and went to Cambridge to say he’d like to make a donation.

“A donation, oh, how kind. Very welcome.”

“You need to name the new college after me of course.”

“New college? No, we’ll be adding a wing to Trinity or some such”

“I’m thinking of donating £squiddeldepop”

“What did you say your name was?


Now I don’t guarantee the truth of any of that at all and I heard it very third or fifth hand. Yet it does seem entirely and wholly sensible. Trading vast sums of money to be used for education for a bit of an ego rub? Bargain.

16 thoughts on “A little story my father told me”

  1. Must admit I wouldn’t feel too inclined to donate a few hundred million quid if I thought the college would only carry my name until the next bribe.

    I’d probably demand a statue. But then I think about poor old Cecil.

  2. Wolfson made contributions to several Oxbridge colleges but I always heard that he was specially approached by Isaiah Berlin to help fund a new college and, in view of his contribution, got naming rights.

    With regard to this new benefactor, there would seem to be question marks over the sources of her wealth. The wiki entry gets my fraud/money laundering antennae waving

    Nguyễn Thị Phương Thảo became a millionaire at age 21 while studying finance and economics in Moscow, where she began distributing fax machines, plastic and rubber from Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea in the then Soviet Union

  3. And your account of Wolfson College Cambridge seems more than a little garbled, given that there was an existing college that lacked an endowment

    University College was opened on 30 June 1965 as a college for postgraduate students, with the classicist John Sinclair Morrison as its first President……….

    The college’s founding deed required the college to either find an endowment within 10 years or face dissolution. In 1972, the Wolfson Foundation agreed to provide a capital endowment and help to fund the construction of central buildings around Bredon House and the college’s East and West Courts. In recognition of this, the college was renamed Wolfson College on 1 January 1973. That is 7 years after the founding of the college!

  4. 1990, 1991? If she had the right contacts – defined as people who could get the stuff through customs at reduced or zero rates plus make sure she wasn’t shot by others – yes, easily believable. Doesn’t require KGB etc contacts. National Sports Association, Afghansty vets association, all sorts of people had customs privileges. Scary bastards but possible.

  5. Sometimes the name alone can be a benefit to the university. A second-tier college in America which receives an endowment and renames to Elon Musk University would see a substantial boost in applications. (Elon has already set up a school for his children, but it’s tiny.)

  6. The source of Walter de Merton and John de Balliol’s weath (feudal conquest) doesn’t, at worst, seem any less ethical than any qualms one might have with Ms Thao’s efforts to survive in a communist society.

  7. @ johnb78
    Walter de Merton founded a small college in Merton, which later moved (? via Malden) to Oxford. The name of the college derives from the village of Merton, not from the name of the founder. Walter de Merton’s wealth came from his salary as Lord Chancellor and from his ecclesiastical stipends, not from feudal conquest.
    John de Balliol inherited wealth and, arguably, the Kingdom of Scotland.

  8. I doubt there is any land in proximity to Oxford that isn’t owned by one of colleges. If you were to fund a new one including the acquisition of a site- you’d be funding another college too, unless they donated it of course.

  9. And what about Corpus Christi while we’re at it? That’s two thousand years of oppression to explain away!

  10. @ Hallowed Be
    Apart from various bits owned by the University (as distinct from an individual college), the City, the NHS, HMG, and Oxfordshire, assorted churches and all the privately-owned houses, there is another university (or maybe it’s just a “university”) and a large factory in Cowley producing Minis.
    Good quip but not quite in line with reality.

  11. John77- well ok, might be nearer the mark to say development land. They certainly own more acreage than covers oxford city a few times over.But yeah doesn’t necessarily follow its all around the city i concede. (i think i’m also a little bit influenced by seeing an episode of Endeavor recently where the main plot was a college dodgily selling land for development- always good when the dons can be inveigled into the plot

  12. The story I heard about Robinson was that the old boy approached the town council and said he’d like to fund something for the benefit of the citizens. The council was rather cold to the suggestion so he asked the Uni whether they’re was anything he could do for them. “Yes, please, a new college principally for undergraduates.” And lo it was so. (I find their building rather handsome, with a fine garden at its centre with a brook running through it. They dun the chap proud if you ask me.) I will add that it’s worth sticking your nose into the College chapel and decrypting a dedicatory plaque he had installed.

    Later he approached Addenbooke’s and asked what they’d like. “A maternity hospital, please.” And that’s what the money was spent on, subject to its being named after his mother (the Rosie) with a ward named after a sister. Or so I’m told.

    Three cheers for Sir David Robinson says I.

  13. I see that John Band hasn’t changed. He swans in parading his achingly woke sensibility and runs off when his ignorance is displayed

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