One of the University of Bath’s earliest graduates has donated a gift worth £1 million to the University to help other researchers follow in his footsteps.
The gift will provide a huge boost to research into sustainable chemical technologies.
Successful businessman Roger Whorrod graduated from the University of Bath in 1965 with a BSc (Hons) degree in electrical engineering. He went on to achieve a Masters degree from the University in 1970.
Now over 40 years later, he has returned to Bath to make this massive donation to help future generations of researchers at the University.
The gift is the largest ever received by the University of Bath.
Although Roger, aged 68, has lived all his working life in the Midlands, his heart has been set on helping the University which gave him that vital start in his career.
Born in Bristol, Roger actually studied at the then Bristol College of Science & Technology but received his degree from the newly created University of Bath at a ceremony in the city’s Assembly Rooms.
After graduating and a career in engineering, he became an entrepreneur and set up several successful engineering businesses in the West Midlands area.
“As an 11 plus failure, studying engineering at Bath changed my life chances and I would recommend university to anyone,” said Roger.
“Both my wife Sue and I have watched the progress of Bath over the last 40 years with a great deal of pride as it has made its way towards the top of the rankings both in the UK and globally.
“We have always wanted to retain a connection with the University into the future and are keen to help support the Vice-Chancellor’s ambitious vision.
“I was here at the beginning of my career and am delighted to be back to invest in its future and more importantly in the future of the young people studying here.
“It was important to us to invest in something where we get to see the tangible benefits and this will allow us to do that.”
The Roger and Sue Whorrod Fund will be used to support the University’s Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies through endowment of the Whorrod Chair in Sustainable Chemical Technologies and the funding of research fellowships known as the ‘Whorrod Fellowships’.
The fellowships will be used to attract outstanding early-career academics to Bath working in research areas linked to the Centre.
Roger said: “We have no direct connection with chemistry or chemical engineering. In fact we don’t have a chemistry O-level between us!
“However, we are very happy to support the work of Professor Matthew Davidson and the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, particularly with its emphasis on sustainable development.”
Roger and Sue’s donation has made use of a Government matched funding scheme for English universities and charitable Gift Aid relief which increased the value of his gift by 50 per cent to just over £1 million.
“With this amount of money the University can set up a significant research programme which could help make a significant breakthrough in the fight against global warming,” added Roger.
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Glynis Breakwell said: “We are honoured that Roger and Sue are making such a generous gift to the University which will have an important impact on the vital research this centre is conducting.
“It is wonderful that the bond between Roger and Sue and the University of Bath has grown so strong and this fund will be a fitting and lasting legacy of that relationship. In recognition of the gift the University will, in perpetuity, name the title of a professor at the University the Whorrod Chair. The first holder will be Professor Matthew Davidson.”
Professor Matthew Davidson said: “We are extremely excited that the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies will benefit from the Whorrods’ incredibly generous gift. It will have a major impact on our research by enabling us to bring new world class expertise to the Centre in important research areas such as clean energy and renewable resources
“Last year the Centre launched a £7.5m EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre to train over 60 PhD students over the next eight years. This gift, and the Whorrod Fellows that it will fund, is a further and entirely complimentary boost to research into sustainable chemical technologies at Bath.”
The launch of the Roger and Sue Whorrod Fund is actually not the first donation the couple have made to the University.
Back in 2005 they set up a bursary scheme for undergraduates at the University. It means that each year two engineering students are nominated to receive an annual £1,500 bursary for the duration of their course.
“At any one time eight students are receiving bursaries, and it has been a pleasure for us to see how these very able and hard working young people develop and mature throughout their time at Bath,” said Roger.
“Setting up and implementing the bursaries brought us closer to the University and to its fund-raising efforts. We became aware of the need universities have for funding from sources other than the Government – particularly in the current economic climate.
“We also found out about the concept of matched funding and what it could mean the University could achieve with our gift. I think this Government scheme is a wonderful way to encourage much needed donations to universities and I recommend others to give what they can.”
It is hoped the first two Whorrod Fellowships will be appointed in time for the new academic year in October 2010.