Music mogul Ahmet Ertegun’s widow is giving $26 million to Oxford University.

The money will pay for at least 35 graduate students to get Mica and Ahmet Ertegun Scholarships each year. The gift also provides for a study center in the U.K. city and is the most generous for the Humanities in the university’s 900-year history.

“My dream is that, one day, Ertegun Scholars will be leaders in every field,” Ertegun’s widow Mica said today in an e-mailed release. “When there is so much strife, it is tremendously important to support those things that endure and make the world a more humane place.”

Ertegun co-founded Atlantic Records and shaped the careers of Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones and many others. Oxford is competing for funds from private benefactors to keep its reputation as a top university. The donation follows the establishment of the Said Business School and many others over the centuries, such as Rhodes House and Nuffield College.

The graduate programe starts immediately with 15 awards a year, rising to 35. It will be endowed in perpetuity to cover fields such as literature, history, music, archaeology, philosophy, art history, Asian and Middle Eastern studies.

“It allows us to ensure that the very best minds are supporting the university’s research endeavor now,” Oxford Chancellor Chris Patten said in the release.

Concert Program

The Ertegun House is a five-story Georgian building in the center of Oxford. It will be ready by the Michaelmas Term starting in September and will have a full-time Ertegun Senior Scholar in Residence who will mentor students and oversee a program of lectures, seminars and concerts.

“For Ahmet and for me,” Mica Ertegun said, “one of the great joys of life has been the study of history, music, languages, literature, art and archaeology.” The Romanian-born widow is an interior designer who lives in New York.

Once they have won a place at Oxford through the usual postgraduate selection system, Ertegun Scholars will be selected by a committee made up of the head of Oxford’s Division of Humanities and other academics from faculties including classics, English, fine art and languages. The gift will ultimately amount to more than $26 million, according to the release.

Government Pressure

“At a time when, in the U.K., government support for the Humanities is under intense pressure,” said Andrew Hamilton, Oxford’s vice-chancellor, “vision and generosity like this is going to be what saves the field for future generations.”

Ertegun, an industry leader for six decades, died in New York in 2006 from a head injury suffered when he fell backstage at a Rolling Stones concert. He was 83. A London benefit concert for the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund, providing students with annual scholarships to universities in the U.S., U.K. and Turkey, made headlines in December 2007 when the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited for the event.

For more on grants and grant writing, visit Grant Pros.

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