Gift from Sir Peter Walters
As former Managing Director and Chairman of BP, the third largest global energy company and fourth largest company in the world, Sir Peter Walters is one of the UK's most successful businessmen.
At the end of his career - during which he was knighted in the 1984 New Year Honours List for his services to industry - Sir Peter looks back on the education that helped to shape it. Without the free scholarship that enabled him to come to King Edward's, he is aware that his life could have been very different.
It is for this reason that he has decided to mark the imminent launch of our new Assisted Places Fund with a generous gift of £20,000. The Fund will allow Old Eds to make small single and regular contributions which, collectively, will fund additional Assisted Places.
Sir Peter left King Edward's School in 1949 and went on to gain a Batchelor of Commerce degree from the University of Birmingham. Following that, he served in the army before joining BP, where his career took off, serving as Managing Director for seventeen years and Chairman for eight years until his retirement in March 1990. After leaving BP, Sir Peter was Chairman of Midland Bank from 1991 to 1994 and Chairman of SmithKline Beecham plc from 1994 to 2000. He is also a former Deputy Chairman of GlaxoSmithKline plc.
Sir Peter describes his time at King Edward's as a period of his childhood that was "very tough." During his year in the Upper Middles his father died in the army in 1945 during the Second World War, and his mother had to run an off-license on her own. As a boy he spent many afternoons after school helping his mother out with the business. This meant that he was unable to get as involved in the extra-curricular side of school life as he would have liked.
Despite it being a difficult time, it was also a defining moment in his life, "I got to a tipping point where I had two decisions," he says. "I could either let the death of my father defeat me, or I could go on and make something of myself. I chose to make something of myself and King Edward's allowed me to do this. It gave me the drive to get on in life and stood me in very good stead."
Sir Peter believes the first class education he received at King Edward's prepared him for his successful career. For him, it was the outstanding teachers that made the difference, "They knew your strengths and weaknesses and really pushed you to make something of yourself." The leadership qualities that he learnt both at school and during his time spent in the army, from which he passed out as Senior Under Officer and Best Cadet, is what "most impressed" during his interview for BP at the age of 23.
To this day Sir Peter is grateful for the financial support he was given. "I was lucky enough to have a free place which meant that, despite my father's death, I was able to stay at school and fulfil the ambitions that my mother had for me, which was to get a good education."
Now in retirement, and with more time to reflect on his education, Sir Peter would like to give something back and ensure that other young boys benefit from the same opportunities that he had. "I was shocked and surprised to learn how few assisted places there are available at King Edward's today," he says. "I am supporting the Assisted Places Fund as I would like to give bright less fortunate boys the chance that I had. I really hope that other Old Edwardians choose to do the same."
King Edward's School thanks Sir Peter for his generous gift of £20,000 towards the Assisted Places Fund.