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Scholars on stairway to academic heaven
Students visiting their new study centre in St Giles with Mica Ertegun, centre, the widow of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun
Students gathered on their own stairway to heaven at an Oxford study centre created following a Led Zeppelin concert.
The 16 graduate students have been chosen as the first to benefit from a £26m donation to Oxford University from Mica Ertegun, the widow of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, who died aged 83 in 2006.
Mr Ertegun helped to shape the career of the legendary rock act and – following their 2007 concert at London’s O2 Arena – band members suggested giving money from their concert to an educational establishment.
That prompted Mrs Ertegun to give the university £26m – one of the most generous gifts for students in its 900-year history And yesterday she met students at a new study centre, a five-storey building in St Giles which will be used exclusively by the Ertegun scholars.
She said: “Led Zeppelin brought me to Oxford – I am here because of them.
“My husband loved England and he would have loved seeing these students in this new building.
“The band were invited here today but they couldn’t come because they have been launching the film of their concert.
“I would love them to come here and see the building themselves one day. They all live here so I’m sure they will.”
Students were selected for the Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities after getting top degrees.
Among the first intake was Joe Snape, 22, who graduated in musicology at Cambridge University.
The programme will allow him to continue his music studies for another year.
He was selected for the scholarship, worth up to £25,000, after applying to Oxford University’s New College to do a master’s degree.
“It’s brilliant that a Led Zeppelin concert has helped to pay for my education.
“I’m very grateful to Mrs Ertegun for this opportunity,” he said.
“Since I got accepted, I have been listening to Led Zeppelin.
“Something like this is bound to make you curious about the music.”
Laura Waelbroeck, 22, graduated in history of art at New York’s Columbia University.
She said: “After applying to Oxford University, I got an email suggesting I apply to the programme. We each have a desk here and a quiet place to study. I’m really excited by the chance to work alongside students from different disciplines.”
Mrs Ertegun, an interior designer, helped to design the new centre after visiting state-of-the-art facilities for students at New York University.
Oxford University Vice-Chancellor Prof Andrew Hamilton said the university would back Mrs Ertegun’s support by funding an additional five Ertegun scholarships next year and in 2014, with the programme growing to at least 35 scholars.
Other Ertegun scholars are studying Oriental Studies, Egyptology and Philosophy.
A gallery at the Ashmolean Museum focusing on the late 15th century to the early 20th century, has been named in honour of the Erteguns.
Led Zeppelin were in their heyday throughout the late 1960s and 1970s, with Stairway to Heaven one of their best-loved songs.