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Atlantic Records founder bequeaths £26m to Oxford University students

Ahmet Ertegun and widow, Mica, to fund graduate scholarships in biggest donation for humanities students in univesity’s history

Oxford University has announced a gift amounting to £26m from the late founder of Atlantic Records and his widow.

Some of the fortune left by Ahmet Ertegun, who helped shape the careers of Led Zeppelin, John Coltrane, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, and the Rolling Stones – to name a few – will go to a major new graduate scholarship programme and represents the biggest donation for humanities students in the university’s 900-year history.

Ertegun and his widow, Mica, will give their name to a programme offering 15 scholarships a year and will eventually be endowed in perpetuity to award at least 35 graduate humanities scholarships annually.

The gift will ultimately amount to £26m, said the university. Friends of Ertegun including Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and the promoter Harvey Goldsmith were expected at the British Academy in London on Wednesday where the announcement was being made.

Lord Patten, the chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “Through the generosity of Mica Ertugun, the best humanities graduate students in the world will have the opportunity, in perpetuity, to undertake high-quality research, to interact with other fine minds, and to increase the sum of human knowledge and understanding.

“This kind of support for postgraduates is vital for the future of research and human understanding, and vital for the future of great universities like Oxford. It allows us to ensure that the very best minds are supporting the university’s research endeavour now and will be the cutting edge researchers of the future.”

Mica Ertegun, a New York-based interior designer, said: “For Ahmet and for me, one of the great joys of life has been the study of history, music, languages, literature, art and archaeology.

“I believe it is tremendously important to support those things that endure across time, that bind people together from every culture, and that enrich the capacity of human beings to understand one another and make the world a more humane place.

“My dream is that, one day, Ertegun scholars will be leaders in every field – as historians and philosophers, as archaeologists and literary scholars, as writers and composers, as statesmen and theologians.”

Oxford’s vice-chancellor, Andrew Hamilton, said: “This is a significant moment for the study of the humanities and the largest donation specifically for the 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.”

All recipients of the award will get exclusive use of The Mica and Ahmet Ertegun House for the Study of the Humanities, a five-storey building in the heart of Oxford. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds