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Rock group funds stairway to academic heaven
John Paul Jones speaking at the launch of the Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in London yesterday
LEGENDARY rock band Led Zeppelin have helped secure one of the biggest gifts to Oxford University in its 900-year history.
Money from the band’s comeback concert at London’s O2 Arena is to help fund a major scholarship programme and new humanities centre in St Giles.
And concert money will form part of a donation amounting to £26m from Mica Ertegun, the widow of the founder of Atlantic Records.
She is to donate a large part of the fortune left by her husband Ahmet Ertegun – who helped shape the careers of Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, and the Rolling Stones – after Led Zeppelin suggested giving money from their concert to an educational establishment.
Having ignored multi-million pound offers to reform for more than 20 years, Led Zeppelin played a one-off show in 2007 to honour Mr Ertegun, with rock’s most eagerly awaited reunion attracting 20 million requests for tickets.
Yesterday it was announced that Mr Ertegun’s Romanian-born widow is to fund the Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in Humanities at Oxford.
One of Led Zeppelin’s three surviving members, John Paul Jones, attended the launch of the scheme in London.
All recipients of the new Oxford scholarship will get exclusive use of the Mica and Ahmet Ertegun House for the Study of the Humanities, a four-storey Georgian building in St Giles, currently used as university offices, which is being completely refurbished.
The programme will initially offer 15 scholarships a year and will eventually be endowed in perpetuity to award at least 35 graduate humanities scholarships annually.
Mrs Ertegun said: “The concert cost an enormous amount of money to stage.
“Afterwards they came to me and said it had made some money and I should do something in memory of my husband.”
Band members urged her to put the money into an educational institution. Mrs Ertegun, one of the world’s foremost interior designers, decided that Oxford University should not only benefit from the concert, but also a significant share of her husband’s fortune.
She said: “For Ahmet and for me, one of the great joys of life has been the study of history, music, languages, literature and art.
“I am so proud of the scholarship programme at Oxford. I intend that it provides an enduring inspiration for brilliant and enthusiastic students from all over the world.
“My dream is that one day Ertegun Scholars will be leaders in every field, as historians, writers, composers, statesmen and literary scholars.”
Oxford’s vice-chancellor Andrew Hamilton said: “This is the largest donation specifically for the study of humanities in the 900-year history of Oxford. At a time when in the UK government support for the humanities is under intense pressure, vision and generosity like this is going to be what saves the field for future generations.”
Led Zeppelin bassist and keyboard player John Paul Jones said he was “very proud” that the concert had led to the new programme.
The son of a Turkish diplomat, Mr Ertegun, signed Led Zeppelin to Atlantic in the late 1960s after hearing a demo.