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Ken Terry

 March 26, 2020 | Simon Jenkins

“Going to University changed my life!”

Ken Terry (Economics 1985) has no doubt of the transformative experience that Leeds gave him: “I went to a comprehensive school and was the first person in my family to go to university. My dad had his own business and it was simply expected that I would work for him. So university was literally a life-changing event.”

Knowing the difference a university education can make to a person is key to Ken’s decision to support scholars at Leeds. And the Scholarships Reception gave him the chance to meet up with two of them, mature students Stephen Christian and Martin Butterfield, and learn more about their own journey to university.

“I wasn’t going anywhere,” says Stephen. “I was working in security and was completely unfulfilled and I didn’t know what to do to change my life.”

But a newspaper article about adult learning persuaded Stephen to return to education, and he enrolled on a foundation degree in social policy – a foundation year followed by a three-year degree course. He is due to graduate this summer. “I always wanted to do this, but I thought I was too old.”

Stephen stresses the huge difference his scholarship has made to his time at Leeds. “It has meant that I can concentrate on my studies and not worry about money issues. I would have definitely struggled otherwise.”

Martin agrees: “The scholarship has taken all the pressure off and allowed me to work hard. I’ve had some mental health issues, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle having a part-time job alongside my studies, so this has been an amazing help.”

Following a troubled relationship with drugs and a period in rehab, Martin gradually fell in love with education: “When I was young I wasn’t interested in school and didn’t really bother with it. My grades were so bad.”

But after a college course he enrolled on a politics and sociology degree at Leeds: “Coming here and being able to write essays about things I enjoy is great. It’s the best thing I have ever done in my life.”

Ken can identify with the issues of these two mature students, after himself returning to education after a successful career in private equity. “I needed a break,” he says. “I spent three years as an undergraduate in Essex. It’s strange being the old guy in the class – and I know how hard it is to write essays when you haven’t done it since you were at school.”

The connection between donor and scholar is something each of them appreciates: “It turned out that we had quite a lot of the same interests,” says Martin.

“It’s really inspiring to meet him and to hear his story,” adds Stephen. “We covered everything under the sun.”

Says Ken: “For me, it’s great to meet them and hear their stories. Looking back, I was lucky; my education was free and we had student grants. These guys have got nothing like that.

“Education is how you break out of what’s around you and make something of your life. Sadly, many people don’t have the chance to prove what they can do, so it’s nice to be able to help.”

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Ken Terry