A personal view from retiring Trustee: Julian Agnew

A personal view from retiring Trustee: Julian Agnew

Julian reflects on the years well spent on the Board of the Trust since the sale of the Evelyn Hospital 13 years ago, the satisfaction of achievement and the local challenges still to be tackled.

It is 13 years since the sale of the Evelyn Hospital, the endowment of the Evelyn Trust with the proceeds and the beginning of its great work in grant funding medical research and social projects in and around Cambridge. Here Julian reflects on these years well spent on the Board of the Trust, the satisfaction of achievement and the local challenges still to be tackled.

“My first thought is that it has been an enormous joy and privilege to have been the first Chairman of the Evelyn Trust, then for many years a Trustee and now Life President.  When the Evelyn Hospital was sold, we were venturing into uncharted waters, but I have enjoyed the voyage and find tremendous satisfaction in the outstanding success of projects we have funded, both large and small.

To see the name ‘Evelyn’ – my great-grandmother’s name – on large capital projects is especially rewarding, when I reflect how much important work those schemes will do in the years to come, saving lives, treating patients and furthering education. The examples that come to mind include the Evelyn Perinatal Imaging Centre, the brand new Evelyn Day Therapy Centre and the Evelyn Cambridge Surgical Training Centre. I know my daughter Amy, who has been a trustee already for some years, will maintain the Agnew family’s support of the Trust into the future and will energetically champion its interests.

Of course, one of the pleasures for me has been the regular contact with our committed group of trustees, who generously share their time, expertise and wisdom, making meetings very productive and enjoyable occasions. Some have been with the Trust since the start and I owe them a debt of gratitude for all their invaluable individual contributions. We now run a very professional operation with an experienced chief executive and trustees with relevant experience in all aspects of our work.

There is inevitably always much more to be done in terms of medical research to be funded and local community projects to be supported. Looking to the future, the Trust will continue with its programme of support for innovative, niche, medical research projects that have the potential to open up significant advancements in healthcare. Increasingly we will also try to focus on supporting small, local health and well being projects for people suffering from poor mental health and other types of disadvantage, particularly where public sector funding has been reduced, or has disappeared completely. 

A development in our strategy which I hope to see in the future is to form close links with local philanthropists who share our aims and objectives. The modern charities sector is, quite rightly, a very professional world and much is expected of charities in governance, administration, financial practice, etc. This means it can be expensive and complex to establish a new small charity and so there are many good reasons to join forces with an established, larger body, such as the Evelyn Trust, utilising structures, processes and human resources that are already in place. Already we have a very major supporter whose most generous contributions to the Trust have helped us enormously in our work. By using our networks we hope to make links with successful Cambridge entrepreneurs who are considering philanthropic ventures in our community. It’s tricky to satisfy the requirements of the Charity Commissioners in a start-up charity, so why reinvent the wheel?

Looking back over thirteen years, I feel that we certainly made the right choice when we sold the hospital, although it was a difficult decision at the time. We have been vindicated by all the wonderful ground-breaking work made possible by our grants and by the knowledge that each year we continue to receive more and more exciting and worthwhile applications for funding. I look forward to seeing and hearing about the work of the Trust in the future and perhaps even continuing to contribute personally in a very small way.

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