Some time ago Hugh Blair signalled his intention to step down as Chairman of the Governors. Now, finally, having served a magnificent eleven years, his tenure draws to a close as at the end of this term.
Hugh has been a man of tremendous energy and he, together with the senior leadership team, have created a nexus of management which has seen the School rise in fortune during the last decade.
There have been some notable successes. The introduction of the Summer Schools program, the development of Sedbergh Junior School at Casterton, the engagement of overseas investors to build a presence in China, the building of the Hirst Sports Centre, the creation of new girls’ houses; the list goes on.
Perhaps however the greatest achievement has been the entrepreneurial ‘can do’ attitude he has brought to the Board combined with a management style which has encouraged growth at a time when many independent schools have struggled.
Hugh would, of course, be the first to admit that the success is not down to him alone. An extensive team of dedicated staff have each, in their own way, played their part and for which he is extremely grateful.
But successful growth requires leadership and it requires discipline. As Michael Porter writes: ‘The growth imperative is hazardous to strategy. Too often it blurs uniqueness, leads to compromises, and undermines competitive advantage’. We have seen this time and time again at other independent schools where their identity has been lost in the rush for market share.
But not at Sedbergh; the rise in numbers has not come at the expense of the defining spirit of the School, much valued and recognised by the many generations of Old Sedberghians that make up the Club. This has been the skill, above all else, that defines his tenure and the reason for which he will be remembered as one of the most outstanding Governors to have sat in the Chair since the Board was first formed in Victorian times. In my view he is equal to those other luminaries that have in their time transformed the School such as Powell and Wilson.
Richard Gledhill now takes over as Chairman. Hugh is a hard act to follow but Richard is equal to the task. As Hugh himself writes: ’Richard was a pupil at Sedbergh from 1967 to 1971, before going to Cambridge to study Maths and Engineering. He is an accountant with a strong commercial background; he was a partner in the advisory side of PwC for 26 years, holding a number of national and international leadership positions, in the Mergers and Acquisition business, the energy sector and latterly on sustainability and climate change. Following his retirement from full-time work, he has acted as a commissioner on aid impact, reporting to Parliament on the effectiveness and value for money of the £14 billion UK aid budget.
Richard has held a number of roles on the Sedbergh Governing Board and is currently Vice Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Executive Committee. He and I have worked closely together for the past six years, thus providing continuity, which is particularly important in these times of rapid change and uncertainty.’
On a personal note I worked with Richard at Price Waterhouse many years ago. I say ‘worked’ but I was an audit junior and he was a partner. It was because of the Sedbergh connection that he was assigned to me as my mentor. He is a highly intelligent man, experienced, and very fair. I, the Club, offer our full support and wish him every success as he leads the School to its quincentenary.
Hugh further writes: ‘On behalf of the Board, Richard has asked me to chair the Board of Sedbergh School International Ltd, after my term as Chairman of Governors is complete. I am delighted to accept this role and look forward to this opportunity to continue my service to the School.’
A great decision. Well done Hugh and well done Richard.
Jan van der Velde
Chairman, OS Club