The £2million Graham Baird building was opened at Collyer’s College, in Hurst Road, Horsham, on Friday (March 11).
Mr Baird has been part of the Collyer’s family since he started serving on the PTA in 1982. He was appointed as a governor in 1986, serving in many roles over the years, including chairman of governors.
The 76-year-old retired from his governance role at the start of the year but, what could have been a melancholy time was tempered by the knowledge his name would be part of Collyer’s history for decades to come.
The college was awash with guests for the official opening of the Graham Baird building, and photography students Chloe Chamberlain and Chloe Powell were on hand to capture the event for posterity.
The guest of honour was, of course, Mr Baird himself, who was joined by members of his family – many of whom were former Collyer’s students.
College principal Sally Bromley began proceedings by paying tribute to the work of her predecessor, Dr Jackie Johnston.
Dr Johnston made history when, in 2004, she became the first woman to be appointed to a head role at the college in its almost 500-year history.
She was also at the helm during the early days of the expansion project which led to the opening of the new building.
Under her leadership, the college grew from 1,200 students in 2004 to just under 1,650 today.
Mrs Bromley thanked project managers Steve Gilham and Robert Hardwick, premises manager Martin Emery and architect Graeme Skipper for their work on the project.
But it was Mr Baird’s day and Mrs Bromley was effusive in her praise for him.
She said: “Graham Baird’s involvement with the governing body at Collyer’s is legendary.
“First appointed as a governor in March 1986 by the Local Education Authority, he became a foundation governor, appointed by the trustees of the Collyer Endowment, in 1994.
“Graham’s illustrious career as governor has led him to be chair of finance and general purposes, nominations, premises, appeals, vice-chair of trustees and of course chair of the governing body.
“He leads quietly, always seeing himself as part of the wider team.
“He respects the role of other governors, the principal, senior management team members, the wider staff and has an understanding of the challenges facing the college.”
She told him: “We owe you a great deal Graham for your support with successive building projects and a small reward will be the formal opening of a building dedicated to your name.”
Mr Baird said he had been filled with a mixture of amazement and pride when he found out the new building was to bear his name.
He added: “It is a great honour and a privilege to have a building named after you, especially as it is following in the footsteps of such illustrious forbears as Dr William Duckering, Christopher Buckle, Dr John Dew and Rosemary Cowley.
“I am very proud of my association with Collyer’s and it has been marvellous to see it develop to cater for the widening needs of our young people.
“Having had four children attend the college we are now looking forward to our grandchildren making the best use of opportunities here.
“With three already participating and another seven to come, I am particularly keen for you to keep up the good work and for Collyer’s to excel for many years!”
Looking back on his 34-year association with Collyer’s, he said one of the highlights had been the day the college was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
As for the building itself, it was paid for with Demographic Growth Funding from the government, and money from the Mercers’ Company – the Premier Livery Company of the City of London which makes substantial grants to support education, welfare, churches, arts and heritage.
Horsham MP Jeremy Quin was on hand to cut the ribbon to open the state-of-the-art facilities which comprises a specialist base for students studying ASDAN qualifications as well as classrooms for business, economics, law and tutoring.
ASDAN is a curriculum development organisation and awarding body which offers programmes and qualifications designed to help students develop their skills for learning, skills for employment and skills for life.
Emily Jones, Collyer’s tutor responsible for ASDAN, was thrilled with the new facilities.
She said: “It is overwhelming and exciting to be moving into our new facilities. The space is brilliant and our students love it. We are very, very happy!”
Mr Quin said: “Thank you to Graham for serving this fine institution for 30 years and congratulations to him for having this wonderful building named after him.”
The building also includes specialist facilities for 19 students with moderate learning difficulties who are also enrolled at the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School, in Comptons Lane – known as the QEII School – which caters for youngsters with learning difficulties or complex needs.
Mr Quin said: “I’m thrilled that it will house students who previously attended the QEII School and I’m sure Richard Collyer himself would be delighted that it also caters for business, economics and law students.”
Taking a break from her photography duties, Chloe Powell said: “The college’s facilities are already incredible so it’s great that we continue to raise the bar even higher.
“It’s like a mini university here.”
Fellow snapper Chloe Chamberlain added it was “really sweet to honour Graham Baird who we all know has given so much to make the college what it is today”.
l Collyer’s students have helped the next generation of Tanbridge House School students with their options.
The seven-strong team gave up an evening to help pupils make informed choices about their options at the school, linked in with the courses Collyer’s can offer them in the future. The Collyer’s volunteers were: Rosalyn Bradshaw, Rosie Carruthers, Callum Hopkins, Jenny Inglis-Taylor; Megan Longdon, Molly Moss and Ella Rowbotham.
Callum said: “I remember speaking to Collyer’s students and teachers as a Tanbridge House pupil at this Options Evening event a few years ago, so it’s great to be back helping the next generation come through!”
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