Michael Cowan tree planting

The College was delighted to mark a new milestone when it admitted Michael Cowan (U70) as a Winston Churchill Fellow on Friday 23 October.

In keeping with current measures, there was a small group present to mark the occasion. Michael and Hilary both planted trees, Hilary a Cercis reniformis at Cowan Court, Michael a Metasequoia near the Archives centre, in this, the 60th anniversary year of the foundation of the College. It is 61 years since Sir Winston planted an oak tree, before the buildings went up.

In her speech marking the occasion, the Master quoted Sir Winston, who said when he planted the tree:

“I trust and believe that this College, this seed that we have sown, will grow to shelter and nurture generations who may add most notably to the strength and happiness of our people, and to the knowledge and peaceful progress of the world. ‘The mighty oak from an acorn towers; A tiny seed can fill a field with flowers.’ ”

She noted that since then the College has grown into a vibrant scholarly community and flourished, hosting in our time many notable academics who have gone on to win the Nobel prize, adding many researchers, teachers in all subjects, artists and skilled people to the world – this would not have been possible without the support of many significant donors, of which Michael is a prime example and has given financially and given time to support the College.

In response, Michael noted that it was 50 years this October since he had come up as an undergraduate to read engineering.

He said:

“Hilary planted a Cercis reniformis Texan White Cowan Court…This is Metasequoia Lyptostroboides Goldrush. Is this a hint?

We are both very honoured to do this, sixty years after the foundation of Churchill College with the motto FORWARD… I was a Fresher here this month fifty years ago. There was a Hall, Offices and some Courtyards, but very few trees and little foliage. No Archives Centre…

College is now altogether a better environment and has gained some back gardens along Storey’s Way, beautified them and so we make our contribution towards net zero carbon aspirations.”

Michael Cowan came up to Churchill in 1970, and got his taste for investing whilst at College. After working at Rothschild’s, Lazard’s and Morgan Stanley, Michael was a founder of Silchester International Investors in London in 1995. His primary role is to manage international equity portfolios for large US endowments, foundations, pension funds and private family offices. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment.

He has been the College’s most generous benefactor since Mr AP Møller, and has donated over £5million to the College since an initial gift of £2,000 in 2007. His most recent gift was for the College endowment. Added to this he generously given time and non-financial support to the College for many years, having served on its Investment Advisory Committee for over 20 years and is still a member of the Investment Committee.

He has also supported the Development and alumni programme over many years as a member of the Development Committee and latterly as Chairman of the Development Board.