A donor’s perspective: Eddie Powell

When Eddie Powell (U&G67) first came to Churchill College for his entrance interview with Dick Tizard in 1966 he was surprised, particularly as he came from a grammar school, to be offered an unconditional place to study Natural Sciences. Inspired by Noel Duckworth, who was the College chaplain at the time and also the life and soul of the College Boat Club, Eddie went on to successfully complete both his undergraduate degree and a PhD in inorganic chemistry. Remarkably for a Cambridge College in the sixties, he was also able to live onsite for all six years of his time at Churchill. He vividly recalls the enjoyment afforded by being part of a vibrant College community with its excellent facilities. He is in no doubt about the impact his six years at the College had on his subsequent life and career:

Looking back on it Dick gave me an opportunity that I struggled, at least in the first year, to justify. I found my feet after that and am extremely grateful for the opportunity I was given — I have never forgotten what Dick offered me on behalf of the College.

Eddie’s connection with Churchill didn’t stop there. Noel Duckworth came out of retirement to marry him and Ruth in 1974 in the College chapel. Further, to his great delight, in 1999 his daughter Christine gained a place at the College to read Natural Sciences. After graduating from Churchill in 2002 Christine went on successfully to gain her PhD in the field of stem cell research at Edinburgh University, where she now works.

Following his time at Cambridge, Eddie changed direction and studied in London for an accountancy qualification. In 1978, after qualifying he moved to Frankfurt for two years, working for two subsidiaries of a UK group. That was followed by eight years as finance director of a company in the Marconi Group (part of GEC) and ten years as group finance director of the light engineering company Colt on the south coast. Then, in 2000 Eddie had a stroke of good fortune by joining Abcam, a start-up company in Cambridge, which led to him and Ruth moving back to the city. Run by two brilliant entrepreneurs, Abcam grew very successfully, becoming a public company in 2005. Eddie retired in 2007, having benefited from a hugely exciting and enjoyable experience with the company. Since then, he has been involved with several start-up companies in Cambridge as well as supporting the College through his involvement with the Finance Committee and the Boat Club and in organising various careers events for College members.

Eddie’s career was heavily influenced by the time he spent with Abcam plc — he still feels a strong affinity towards the company — and he recently gave the College a generous donation of Abcam shares which the College will hold for the future dividend income. This gift reinforces the personal bond he has with both the College and Abcam and brings together two of the most important threads in his career:

 My life’s path has been greatly affected by my time at Churchill. For me it was an uplifting and life-changing experience and I am indebted to the College for having had the faith to give me that chance in 1966. By giving to the College I am, in my mind, now repaying that debt. Going to Churchill gave me confidence and a completely new and broader outlook on life, one that I have never looked back on or forgotten, and it proved to be a stepping stone to all that followed.

Eddie is very aware that the financial considerations he faced as a student in the sixties were very different from those impacting students today, having benefited from no tuition fees and even a local authority grant that covered his living expenses. It is his hope that by making this donation he will help current, and future generations of students, many of whom now have to ‘pay up front’ and take on a huge burden of debt. He is also hopeful that others in his position will feel the same way about their time at Churchill and may also be inspired to give back and help future students benefit from their time at the College.

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