Old Gregorian Medal Winners

2014 – Jake Francis-Jones

The Old Gregorian network is a powerful one and many of you sitting here today have benefitted from the association over many years and bear witness to its success.  One man has single-handedly built up the contact list, developed an electronic newsletter with a monthly circulation of over 4000, and sought every opportunity to develop the network through individual contact and the sheer power of his personality.  That man is Jake Francis Jones who left Barlow House in 1955, sent his sons to Downside and whose grandson joined the School last September.  He is with us today to receive the inaugual Old Gregorian Medal.

In his work with the society, Jake also learnt about some OGs who had fallen on hard times.  Using the network he had established, he would approach other OGs and ask them to assist those in difficulties.  Over time this work, became known as the ‘Bruised Reeds’ and as word spread, so did the requests for support.  Jake took an immense amount of the work on himself, as well as mobilising other OGs who could help.  He is justly proud of the Bruised Reeds and as we are aware, this is certainly the first, and may still be the only alumni association that specifically recognises the need to support their members through the rough times as well as the good times.

We salute you today for your tireless devotion to the cause, for your outstanding contribution to St Gregory’s Society and we ask you to come up to the platform to receive the first ever Old Gregorian Medal from the Abbot.  (It is worth recording that Jake received a lengthy standing ovation at this point) (Taken from Head Master’s speech at Prize Day 2014)

2015 – Martin Kochanski

This year St Gregory’s Society has also chosen a man who has used his gifts and education as a mathematician and computer expert to bring the Prayer of the Church and the Mass and the Scripture readings for each day into easy reach for everyone. Professional religious people like me might have been expected to do that, but we didn’t, so this year’s recipient of the Old Gregorian Medal did it himself. If you don’t know the site Universalis go and find it today; better still, purchase and download the beautiful App and you will be sponsoring our Polish scholars. (Taken from Dom Leo’s speech at Prize Day 2015)

2015 – Emmanuel de Merode

Prince Emmanuel de Merode, is not able to be with us on this occasion, but he has been happy to accept the award, and it is my privilege to hand it to the President of St Gregory’s Society, Mary Jane Platt, who will ensure that he receives it. Emmanuel, who does not use his title, was appointed Director of Virunga National Park by the Congolese government on 1 August 2008. He has led a team of rangers on a project to preserve this refuge of Mountain Gorillas and other remarkable wildlife in the middle of a civil war and at great risk. In recent years 120 Rangers have been killed and Emmanuel was himself shot and seriously injured in April 2014. In spite of being shot in the abdomen and chest, he was back at work next month. The vision is to preserve Virunga for the future and to make it a keystone in the regeneration of this part of Africa in a way that benefits the human population together with its environment and wildlife. To learn more, you can see Emmanuel give a TED talk (TEDxWWF – Emmanuel De Merode: A Story of Conflict Renewal & Hope). You will be struck by his humility and great appreciation for those he leads. We should be very proud of him and his team. (Taken from Dom Leo’s speech at Prize Day 2015)

2016 – Martin Appleby

Over many years Martin has used his sound business and financial knowledge to help a wide range of charitable and other organisations in a way that never seeks to draw attention to himself. He has been one of our governors, chairman of the Amazon Trust, the Van Neste Foundation, St James’ Priory and a Trustee of the Clifton Diocese and the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood. A Diocesan Trustee may not sound exciting, but the Church is the world’s oldest and largest multinational and a diocese is a complex subsection that involves not just parishes and a Cathedral, but schools and universities, missions and safeguarding, vocations and marriage tribunals – everything that supports our life as Catholic Christians. Declan, Bishop of Clifton, has written: ‘In all of this Martin showed his great love for the Church and the mission of the Diocese. It was indeed an expression of his faith put into action.’ (taken from Dom Leo’s Prize Day speech)

2017 – Edward Fitzgerald 

Clearly the star of his year and a great participant of the Abingdon when at Downside and even then something of a legend. He was Silk of the year in 2013 and has since made a name for himself as the leading QC to defend human rights. This includes the right to a fair trial and the abolition of the death penalty. He has defended the indefensible, Myra Hindley, John Venables and Abu Quatada and although not pleading for their innocence, making sure that they are treated fairly in a modern democracy.