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Generosity widens education’s reach

24 October 2014

St John's College, Nottingham, was founded on a legacy, and legacy giving has substantially affected the scope of its work and students, says Rachel Giles 


The gift that keeps on giving: students at St John's College, Nottingham, in a group session

The gift that keeps on giving: students at St John's College, Nottingham, in a group session

ST JOHN'S COLLEGE, Nottingham, has its origins in a legacy gift. The Revd Alfred Peache, a formerly penniless curate from Bristol, used money left to him by his father to found the London College of Divinity, which later became St John's College.

"Peache and his sister, Kezia, received a very large legacy from their father when he died," the Vice-Principal of St John's, the Revd Dr Andy Angel, says. "He asked some friends to pray . . . as to what he could do with this money for good."

Their answer to him was: to set up a theological college "with a distinctly Protestant Evangelical emphasis which would reach out to people . . . of all classes and all backgrounds, and give them a first-class education". So Peache put all his legacy money into founding a new college.

"Soon into the college's life," Dr Angel says, "it hit the rocks financially, and Alfred came to his sister, Kezia, and asked her if she were willing to part with her money, because he gave his away."

The two siblings differed theologically; but, luckily for Alfred, she was both open-minded and generous. "He was Evangelical; she was a liberal; despite [this] she was willing to bless this Evangelical college with her legacy," Dr Angel says.

The legacy has enabled St John's to offer education to people of all backgrounds: "You don't need to be an academic, and you don't need to be middle-class, or from any particular background to train to work in the Church of England, if that's what you believe God's calling you to do," Dr Angel says.

A gift of £3000 helped St John's College to set up its Extension Studies department in 1978. Since its beginnings, more than 8000 people have studied theology, ministry, and counselling courses through the department on part-time or full-time courses, or occasional study and summer schools. Legacies have also funded bursaries for poorer Extension Studies students, or students in prison, both in the UK and abroad.

Legacies are crucial to keeping many colleges going, Dr Angel says, especially when times are difficult financially. "It is legacies that often keep colleges alive. . . It's the legacy that blesses you at the right time; and you think, OK, we're doing the Lord's work, this is what you've called us to do, we've now actually got what we need to get on and do it for the next stage. Their importance cannot be underestimated."

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