The Early Days of Wingate Scholarships - Jane Reid

In 1988, returning from abroad and with varied experience in teaching, administration and research, I was lucky enough to land the job of setting up and running Wingate Scholarships, the newly conceived offspring of the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation. This proved to be the most absorbing and satisfying work, and it kept me happy for the next twelve years – not to mention enabling several hundred people to achieve their ambitions and fulfil their dreams. Throughout that time I was supported by the wisdom and experience of the Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, Martyn Goff, and the sympathetic guidance and support of Tony Wingate. Other notable members of that formidable original Committee were Antonia Byatt, Robert Ponsonby, Brian Wenham, Richard Hoggart, Robert Cassen and Lord Dainton.

My first task – in April - was to work out administrative procedures and concoct application forms on my Amstrad at home in time to launch our first awards in the summer. The result was 43 candidates and the selection of the first 21 Wingate Scholars in July 1988.

Then it was time to move into the Chesterfield Properties office and set things up on a more professional and permanent basis. I have to admit that from the start – with Tony Wingate’s help and approval - I devised a process that not only worked well but was also enjoyable. The Wingate Scholarships administrator is not a mere post-box, directing all applications straight to eminent advisers, but is right at the heart of things. It is hard work, occasionally tedious, but fulfilling. Over the years I read a vast number of applications, most of them interesting, some wacky, some dull, some incomprehensible, some inspired and many exciting. The advisers select on the basis of the excellence and potential of the candidates and their projects, but the administrator takes their needs into account as well; the Wingate factor.

It did not take long for Wingate Scholarships to become widely known – and this was in the days before Google and the internet. Numbers of applicants ballooned to over 800 in 1992 and we had to trim this and that to make things manageable. The lower age limit was raised from the original 18 to 24 and taught courses were eliminated – the scholarships were after all designed to fund original ideas and endeavour. We also stopped accepting applications from overseas; for reasons including the undesirability of raising false hopes in the floods of hopelessly unqualified applicants. Later the disproportionate number of applications from art students led to the Trustees setting up a separate scheme for Fine Arts, and from 1990 to 1998 another specially funded programme supported 30 Scholars from former Iron Curtain countries. It was a life-saver for some of them and produced a most interesting group of Scholars.

I look forward to the celebration of twenty years of Wingate Scholarships. I know I will meet a lot of interesting, intelligent and unusual men and women - my friends the trustees, committee members and advisers - but above all the many young and not-so-young people whom Wingate Scholarships has had the privilege of helping.

Jane Reid
Administrator, Wingate Scholarships 1988 - 2000