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By David Palmer
She opened with the line: “I’m not a great speaker.” If first impressions count, at least she was true to her word. A couple of mumbled sentences later, read by her own admission from the project’s mission statement, Mica Ertegun let a pre-recorded video do the talking for her.
Lacking the brash confidence of Wafic Said and James Martin, two of the University’s recent benefactors, Ertegun seemed overshadowed by the names around her. Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Melvyn Bragg – introduced by VC Hamilton as “probably the greatest public educator in Britain today” – Harvey Goldsmith, the University Chancellor and VC, all intended to draw the world’s press to the British Academy. Throughout the press conference Hamilton placed his hand over hers to almost shelter Mica from the swollen press crowd’s questions. The irony is, of course, that, because of her donation, Mica Ertegun was overshadowing them.
When asked to put the donation into context, Patten likened the Erteguns to Thomas Bodley and Elias Ashmole. “Oxford wasn’t created by the state,” he said. “Oxford was created by a million and one private acts of generosity. On a rare day [29th February] we are announcing something that is very rare indeed… the largest gift for the support of students in the Humanities in Oxford’s 900 year history.”
There is no doubt that the University will have forensically examined the Erteguns so they can avoid damage to their reputation through dodgy links. Hacks will of course begin the hunt for dirt but one thing’s for sure; Mica comes with extraordinarily good references.
She runs MAC II, a Romanian born, New York-based interior designer firm; but her greatest asset is her late husband.
Turkish Ahmet Ertegun, who passed away in 2006, was the founder of Atlantic Records. John Paul Jones described him as “a soulman. And as far as I know, teaching of the Humanities addresses the mind and soul… [this donation] couldn’t have come from a better place.”
In 2007, Led Zeppelin reunited at the O2 in London for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert, organised by Goldsmith, which raised money for Ertegun’s Education Fund – an event that, according to Hamilton, “first established a relationship” between the University and the Erteguns. The Fund has already supported scholarships for students in recent years at Oxford.
In a similar way to the Rhodes Scholarship, there will be an Ertegun House, in the centre of Oxford, intended to be a place for study, socialising and, more excitingly, “concerts”. Even if you’ve never heard of Mica Ertegun, her surname could go very far in making Ertegun House the place to rock out.