Christopher M. Lowe
"Without the opportunity to study at St. Catharine’s my life would have turned out very differently. In fact, I’m 100% certain that if I hadn’t gone to Cambridge I wouldn’t be living in New York City, I wouldn’t be a Partner in a private equity fund and I wouldn’t have the lifestyle I currently enjoy. In hindsight, it is amazing that I had the opportunity to experience the richness and opportunity of a Cambridge education, without any direct contribution on the part of myself or my parents. It is only logical that I should feel a responsibility to give back.
All of my giving to date has been directed towards supporting the access initiative at St. Catharine’s, an area about which I feel strongly. In the early 1980’s, I was a pupil at a Scottish comprehensive school (‘public’ in the US) school which had not sent a student to Cambridge in recent memory. By chance, while on a family vacation, we spent an afternoon in Cambridge. Standing on the Silver Street Bridge, looking past Queens’ towards the backs, I recall saying to my parents that this was a university I would like to attend. Upon returning to school after vacation I told my guidance counsellor that I would like to apply to Cambridge. The response I received, ‘good luck and let me know how it goes!’, has stayed with me for the last thirty years.
I was accepted to study mathematics at St. Catharine’s (and, needless to say, my school was very pleased). The rigor with which mathematics is taught at Cambridge established an intellectual discipline that has benefitted me through my whole career in investment banking and equity investing. When I wasn’t studying I became deeply involved in politics, initially by joining Cambridge University Liberal Club and then more broadly in local and national student politics—this is a passion I still have today as a member of the Democratic Party’s National Finance Committee.
Following my second year at Cambridge, I took—much to the chagrin of my Director of Studies—a sabbatical year as the elected Deputy President of Cambridge University Students Union (‘CUSU’). It was a curious mixture of business management and student related campaigning but an experience I benefitted from immensely. Interestingly, in those days, CUSU was the only organization championing access at Cambridge—through what was then known as the Target Schools program.
Fast forward to today and the principles of access seem to be embedded in the collegiate structure, with a genuine commitment to ensuring people from a wide range of backgrounds can study at Cambridge. This includes the existence of Schools Liaison Officers in the Colleges, responsible for encouraging applications from schools that do not traditionally send people to Cambridge. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that anyone who meets the admission criteria can have the life changing experience of studying at a Cambridge College.
Some time ago I decided that alongside my regular contributions, I wanted to make a larger impact and included St. Catharine’s in my estate plans. Initially my wife and I decided upon a fixed lump sum but we will be revising our wills to leave a percentage of our estate to the College, as a more appropriate mechanism for giving. We hope that St. Catharine’s uses our planned gift to continue to expand access to Cambridge for students from a diverse range of backgrounds. And I feel like I am repaying a small proportion of the debt I owe to the College and the University."