Benefactors' dinner

On October 4, the School welcomed existing and new LSE Benefactors to the Thames Pavilion within the House of Commons for its annual celebration of transformative philanthropic support of LSE.

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The physical Benefactors’ Board, situated in the Old Building lobby area, recognises those whose level of generosity has defined the tradition of philanthropy at the School. 

In 2016 four new Benefactors were added to the board: The Atlantic Philanthropies, Santander Universities UK, the Sutton Trust and YES Bank – Rana Kapoor. As per annual tradition, new additions were presented with specially designed Fabian Window plaques, based on the iconic stained glass art piece situated in the Shaw Library. 

Interim LSE Director Professor Julia Black welcomed guests and introduced a special discussion between LSE Benefactor Firoz Lalji (BSc Economics 1969) and Professor Tim Allen. Firoz recently made the largest gift LSE has ever received from an alumnus, with a pledge of £10 million through the Lalji Family Foundation to endow the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa. Professor Allen is the Centre’s inaugural Director.

The centre is dedicated to teaching, research and engagement with Africa and African scholars, further strengthening LSE’s commitment to placing the continent at the heart of debates around global issues. The centre is named in recognition of the Lalji Family Foundation’s gifts, including wife Najma’s and daughters Farah’s and Natasha’s transformative gifts, of £13 million to LSE. The Programme for African Leadership (PfAL), which sees scholarships awarded to African students committed to applying LSE learning to their home continent, was founded in 2011 following a donation from Firoz and Najma. Firoz and Professor Allen used the discussion to explore their hopes and expectations for the Centre. 

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Firoz Lalji

“I see LSE fostering positive change in Africa: economic, social, and political development,” said Firoz. “I see LSE as being instrumental in making that happen.” Firoz discussed with Professor Allen his motivation for giving, explaining how he wanted to address management and leadership problems that plague the continent. “I’d have had regrets if I had not made the gift. There’s a dearth of leadership in Africa – and you need leaders to build institutions to create governance. PfAL is designed for that – if you get thousands of scholars who all share a vision and contribute to African society, it can bring about a major change. And the more I spend time with these students, the more I realise that they are some of the smartest people I have ever met, and realise the impact they could have back in Africa as leaders.” 

Firoz also reflected on the way in which his philanthropic experience with LSE had gone beyond a financial donation. “Here I am not only allowed to participate beyond writing a cheque, I am encouraged to do so. People discuss things with me and it makes a big difference.”

Professor Allen praised Firoz’s vision. “Firoz’s extraordinary gift endows the Centre in perpetuity – it is a part of LSE forever. That level of commitment is hugely important.” Learn more about the work of the Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa at lse.ac.uk/africa.