It is no exaggeration to say that Bradfield would not be the fine school it is today if it was not for the tireless commitment and generosity of Michael Stone over so many years.
The concept that independent schools needed to raise money from their alumni and other ‘friends’ only really became accepted in the inflationary days of the 1970s when costs were escalating, and facilities looked tired and worn after a post war period of underinvestment. Bradfield itself ran a series of appeals during this time, each one requiring outside professional help and significant voluntary input.
Michael was a member of Council and for a man of boundless energy and equal impatience the process of lurching from one appeal to another was frustrating in extremis. It was the idea of Michael, John Bodie (C 44-48) and Richard Youard (B 46-51) Clerk to the Council, to create The Bradfield Foundation and design a permanent campaign for continuous giving. Supported by a board of Trustees the Foundation was born in (1989) with Michael as Chairman and a new era in Bradfield’s history emerged.
John Bodie remembers Michael’s extraordinary contribution to the formation of the Foundation:
I first met Michael in 1970. We were both guests at a grouse shooting party in Scotland but had never met previously. Although he had sent one of his three boys to Bradfield, he was not an enthusiastic OB, so we rarely discussed Bradfield; nevertheless, we established a very warm friendship. I was always fascinated to learn about his exceptional series of business successes.
During the 1980s, I was invited to join the Bradfield Council, where I soon found myself on the Finance Committee, which was led by the Warden, Richard Stanley, and brilliantly supported by our outstanding Headmaster, Peter Smith. It soon became clear that if Bradfield was to survive we needed a host of modern amenities to compete with our peer group of independent schools. Bradfield was not blessed with endowments and the idea of a one-off Appeal which might provide just one new amenity was not the answer.
In 1989, we hit upon the innovative idea of the Bradfield Foundation which, if successful, would enable us to raise funds for these amenities and modernisation for the future, but we needed to raise money quickly. Each of the founders decided to approach potential donors in the hope of achieving some success. It was a daunting task. Head of my list was Michael. I needed to impress upon him the dire urgency of our requirements.
I took him to lunch at Claridge’s and immediately dived in the deep end to explain the purpose of my hospitality. To this day, our conversation remains vividly clear. I recall him saying that he had never done anything to support his old school and would like to do so. I explained that our immediate requirement was a new sports hall and swimming pool. He asked how much this would cost. Rather nervously, I told him that we would need a very large sum, hoping that he might make a generous donation towards it. Before we reached the main course, he promised to cover the entire cost. I nearly fell off my chair!
Sure enough, our Bursar received Michael’s cheque the following week. What a start! Work began immediately and was completed on time and within the budget. I think Michael was impressed with the professional way our excellent Bursar supervised the project. From that moment, he devoted much of his time to the Foundation. He was not just never-endingly generous, but he was also an inspiration to the trustees and the many donors who contributed to this great cause.
He soon became Chairman of the Foundation and, thanks to him, a massive programme of new projects was undertaken during the 1990s. Much of the credit is due to his dear wife, Louisa, who steadfastly encouraged Michael to support his enthusiasm for the Bradfield Foundation. It was a just reward that Michael was honoured to have one of the Boarding Houses named after him. Without doubt, he was one of the most remarkable and outstanding Bradfieldians of all time, to whom Bradfield owes an enormous debt of gratitude.
J.E.B. (C 44-48)
As a young OB newly recruited to Council I was immediately struck by Michael’s contribution around the table. Verbosity was cut short by Michael demanding that action be taken, preferably ‘this day’, to any problem. He could never see that a vision of a different Bradfield could not be achieved even though he knew much rested on his shoulders to find the money. He did this through a relentless attitude to fundraising. It usually started with a prospect being identified by another trustee who suggested a meeting with Michael would be a good idea.
That meeting invariably was held over a lunch in Michael’s City office with Michael using his charm and determination to ensure that the prospect did not leave without a pledge which was often twice what had been first offered! He also set a magnificent example himself donating very sizable funds to the Foundation so he could encourage others to match his gift. On one occasion, when let down by a donor, Michael led a small group of trustees to fill the gap which suddenly appeared in the funding of a major building contract.
Michael was a successful City man and was always running flat out. It was difficult to keep up with his demands that things should happen at the same kind of speed and in the early days of the Foundation he grew frustrated with the long lead times to raise meaningful money. At the same time he was thoughtful and compassionate, particularly with friends and colleagues who had suffered misfortune. He made sure kindnesses were remembered often with an invitation to lunch. He said he had sacrificed his waistline for Bradfield, but he knew the power of his invitations and his phenomenal success in raising money bears witness to that.
Michael’s outstanding legacy, both of his work and his generous financial support, will live on at Bradfield. The College reflected their appreciation in renaming Field House to Stone House in 2011 and typically Michael again supported a major refurbishment of the House. Bradfield’s campus has been transformed over the last thirty years to provide some of the best facilities of any independent school. The driving force behind this transformation was Michael. It is humbling to reflect on Michael’s enormous contribution to Bradfield and his genuine love of the College.
At a packed memorial service held in London in March we remembered Michael as a titan in business, an inspiration to so many, a benefactor of so many causes, including Bradfield, and a committed husband to Louisa and a loving father and grandfather. Bradfield can only say- inadequately certainly-Thank you Michael from generations of Bradfieldians who live and study in a College so significantly enhanced by your work and generosity.
Martin Young (C 59-64) Warden 2011-2017