Friday 1 May 2009

'Jack' John Desborough

Mr ‘Jack’ John Desborough, a major benefactor to the University and to students of the Business School, died in hospital on Tuesday 21 April 2009 at the age of 84

John was born in July 1924, an only child. He attended Latymer Upper Secondary School in Hammersmith, London and matriculated in 1941. After a temporary job, he joined the Royal Air Force in 1943 and became a radar mechanic servicing Lancaster bomber aircraft in Lincolnshire throughout the Second World War.

After he was de-mobbed, along with many others, he started looking for a job. As he once said, “In those days ordinary youngsters did not have the opportunity to go to university”, so he took and passed the Civil Service entrance exam. John joined the Civil Service in 1947. After several postings, including 18 months in Geneva, he retired from the Civil Aviation Authority in 1984 and moved to Epsom.

John first visited the University in 1988 and in 1995 he indicated his intention to leave Buckingham a bequest in his will. However, in 1998, after receiving a windfall, he also offered an annual bursary for a British student studying Business, and since 1999 many students have been supported by Desborough Scholarships.

Why did John decide that Buckingham and its students were worthy of his support, even though he had no special connections with the area? He was impressed that Buckingham’s degree courses were for two years, rather than three. He also recognised that, unlike larger universities, few bursaries were available for Buckingham students. As John was interested in business, he also wanted to specify that his scholarships would be for Business students. Katie Balaam was one such student who graduated in 2004 with a First class degree: “Mr Desborough gave me and many other students an opportunity to gain a degree. I will always be grateful to his generosity and regularly wrote to him detailing my progress. His replies were always full of interesting questions.”

As well as supporting students with scholarships, from 2006 John was also closely associated with the BSc Business Enterprise programme. He has donated many thousands of pounds to the ‘seed-corn’ capital fund, which has funded the start-up and operation of businesses for more than 20 Business Enterprise students. John was also an active member of the Buckingham Angels venture capital panel, and his incisive questions will be sorely missed by the other members when this year’s panel meets in May.

Report by Nigel Adams and the Web Team

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