As Sir Dominic Cadbury prepares to retire as Chancellor of the University, Old Joe looks back over his time at Birmingham and the legacy he will leave behind.
I am pleased I have been able to really contribute something to Birmingham via an institution which is such an important part of the city where my family's business grew.
During the past decade, more than 75,000 Birmingham graduates have shaken hands with Sir Dominic Cadbury (Hon LLD, 2002) as they collected their degrees on graduation day. One scholarship student, whose achievements especially impressed Sir Dominic, even received a bar of chocolate with hers, which speaks volumes about the personable nature of the Chancellor whose tenure comes to an end this December.
A member of the Cadbury chocolate dynasty, Sir Dominic has been the University's lead ambassador since May 2002, a role he describes as thoroughly enjoyable and extremely varied.
'I represent the University at all big occasions and have had the opportunity to meet a huge range of people during my time. I am pleased I have been able to really contribute something to Birmingham via an institution which is such an important part of the city where my family's business grew.'
As honorary head of the University, the Chancellor chairs meetings of the University's Court, represents the University in the UK and overseas, and presides over degree congregations, the aspect of the job which he describes as his highlight.
'Graduation days are such big occasions for everyone involved, not just the students, but also their families and friends,' he explains. 'It has been a real privilege to be a part of so many special days.'
While he is reticent about claiming any personal responsibility for the University's achievements over the past ten years, he is proud of all of the changes and growth he has witnessed during his time here.
'The University has achieved a huge amount during the past decade. Research standards, student satisfaction, the campus and facilities have all been improved and I am proud that the University has so much to claim, especially against a changing higher education background and difficult financial times.'
Even with such a modest view of his impact, his legacy cannot be overlooked. Once described by his older brother, Sir Adrian Cadbury (Hon LLD, 1989), as having 'fantastic focus', Sir Dominic has been awarded this year's CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) Europe Leadership Award which recognises outstanding leaders who inspire by example in promoting and supporting education.
As President of the Circles of influence fundraising campaign, Sir Dominic has been instrumental in reproducing philanthropy to Birmingham. 'If you are fortunate enough to be able to give something back, it is really important to do so, after all, we all have an urge to do something for others,' he says. 'I am proud to have supported a number of initiatives at the University including the Access to Birmingham (A2B) scheme, the Bramall Music Building and Special Collections.'
Image: Sir Dominic, pictured with eight scholarship students, is a generous supporter of the Access to Birmingham scholarship scheme.
A Cambridge and Stanford University graduate, Sir Dominic is also heavily involved in his own alumni communities, providing advice to Trinity College on its alumni activities, and as a member of Stanford's Business School International Advisory Board.
In his final act as Chancellor, Sir Dominic has launched the Chancellor's Challenge Fund in support of the University's campus developments and to inspire a new generation of donors. Sir Dominic has kick-started the Fund with a pledge of £250,000 and is challenging alumni, friends and supporters to raise a combined £2 million by the end of July 2014.
'The new Sports Centre, Library, Lapworth Museum refurbishment and University School will provide outstanding facilities for both the University and local community,' he says.
'I wanted to make a special gift to help Circles of influence continue to do fantastic things and would personally like to thank everyone who joins me and contributes to the future success of the University.'
As part of his challenge, Sir Dominic is encouraging those who have never given to the University before to make this year their time to start. As an incentive, he will give £97 for each of the first 800 new donors giving £3 to the autumn library appeal, raising a further £8,000 for the new building.
Upon retiring, Sir Dominic still plans to be involved with the University and the city more widely. A member of the new Library of Birmingham Board of Trustees, he will also take on the role of President of the Edgbaston High School for Girls. 'I have plenty to keep me busy,' he says. 'As well as trying to keep my golf handicap respectable of course.'
Sir Dominic will be the guest speaker at the Guild of Graduates and Alumni Association AGM on Saturday 14 September 2014. Visit the online Alumni Events Calendar for more information.
At the time of going to press, alumni and friends have donated £1 million towards the £2 million Chancellor's Challenge Fund target. Thank you. Find out more about the Challenge and how you can take part by visiting the Chancellor's Challenge Fund webpage.