TWENTY-TWO years ago, Don Ross left his job with a local council and went to university, at the age of 55.
Now other students are following a similar path thanks in no small part to his legacy.
Mr Ross took early retirement from his job with Durham City Council and enrolled at St Cuthbert’s College, Durham University, as a mature student, studying Sociology and Social Policy alongside students 35 years his junior.
He left three years later with a 2:1 degree and was a member of the St Cuthbert’s Society right until his untimely death six years ago.
At the same time as he was studying he had entered local politics, becoming Labour county councillor for Framwellgate Moor. At the time of his death Mr Ross, from Bearpark, Durham City, was deputy leader of Durham County Council and one of the North’s most respected politicians.
He was also a member of the Newcastle International Airport local authority holding company, a director of the County Durham Development Company and a member of both the North East Regional Assembly and the Association of North East Councils.
Following his death Mr Ross’s widow Joan set up an endowment fund through the Esh Charitable Trust.
It is helping students, aged 35 upwards and from County Durham, to follow in his footsteps at St Cuthbert’s College. The latest beneficiary is Mark Anthony Jones, aged 36, from Willington, County Durham.
Mark had to pass up the opportunity to go to university 18 years ago as his mother was involved in a serious car accident that left her partly disabled and unable to work.
As he was from a single parent family, he had to put aside his studies and find a job. However, Mark is now studying for an undergraduate archaeology degree and would like to go on to do an masters in medieval archaeology and is working towards a career in archaeology.
The £1,200 contribution from the Don Ross Memorial Fund is assisting him in his studies. Mark said: “The Don Ross Memorial Fund donation is greatly appreciated, although its effects are not immediately apparent.
“The donation was paid as a contribution towards my course fees and as such is offsetting any student loans I would have had to take out had the donation not been made.
“I will reap the benefits of this donation when I am required to repay my student loans as the amount I need to pay back will be a lot less.
“The economic benefit to me and my family will be fantastic, and the emotional relief of having less debt when I finish my course has made my current situation much easier.”
The grants are administered through the County Durham Foundation.