Remembering Graham Down

Toward the end of 2014, esteemed Director of the Davies-Jackson Scholarship, Graham Down, passed away. There is so much I could say about this amazing man; Graham was the first person I met when receiving the scholarship, and he shaped the entire experience for me in such a positive way. Yet his obituary says it best. He will be missed.

Graham Down, 1929 – 2014

Graham Down

Graham Down, who chaired the Davies-Jackson Scholarship Committee at St John’s College for nearly two decades, has died at the age of 85.

A Cambridge graduate who went on to become a teacher, educationalist and campaigner for liberal arts education in the United States, Mr Down retained a connection with his alma mater by overseeing the progress of the Davies-Jackson programme. The scholarships enable students from the US, who are the first in their family to graduate from a liberal arts college, to undertake a course of further study at St John’s.

Mr Down was born in Great Malvern, Worcestershire, in 1929 and educated at Marlborough College, Wiltshire, then at King’s College in Cambridge, where he read history. He then studied for an education diploma at Christ Church, Oxford, and taught at a school in Hertfordshire, before moving to the United States.

He spent 10 years working at the prestigious Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, before moving on from the profession, eventually becoming Executive Director, and then President, for the Council for Basic Education in Washington. Now no longer in existence, this ground-breaking, non-profit organisation campaigned to strengthen the teaching and learning of the basic, liberal arts subjects in American schools, its central principle being: “That the school is the place for making young people literate in the essential fields of human knowledge.”

Later in life, Mr Down served on a number of boards for other non-profit organisations and initiatives. Of these, he commented in a short set of autobiographical notes that his favourite was probably the Committee responsible for the Davies-Jackson Scholarships.

The Scholarships were established in the 1990s and offer graduating seniors in the United States who have exceptional academic records the chance to apply as an Affiliated Student for the two-year BA programme at St John’s. Candidates must be the first in their family to graduate from College, and the Scholarship covers their fees, accommodation and living costs, as well as some expenses. Over the years, it has given numerous students the chance to enrich their learning within the Cambridge system.

Dr Matthias Dörrzapf, Senior Tutor at St John’s College, said: “We were all deeply saddened to hear of Graham’s death. For almost 20 years he dedicated himself to the Davies-Jackson Scholarships with unrelenting commitment and enthusiasm. Thanks to his efforts, many talented young people who might not otherwise have ever had the opportunity have been able to study at St John’s, transforming their own lives, and those of others, as a result.”

This additional obituary, which appeared in Vermont news, captures elements of Graham’s long history with music. It is also well worth a read. 

Again, he will be missed. 


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