Published: 23 June 2023

“If I hadn’t gone to Battersea, I’d have settled down and stayed for a long, long time in that factory…”

Mike Banfield, who passed away earlier this year, is the winner of our Outstanding Contribution to Surrey accolade in the Vice-Chancellor’s Alumni Awards. After studying chemical engineering, Mike enjoyed a hugely successful business career. He then became a driving force in establishing our hugely successful Battersea Scholarship Fund.

Mike’s links with our institution stretch back nearly 70 years. In 1954, he left factory work after securing a scholarship to study a chemical engineering degree at Battersea College of Technology, the forerunner institution to the University of Surrey. It was a transformative experience and his undergraduate days remained a time he recalled with much fondness.

Battersea memories

“One of the great things about Battersea was the mixture of people who studied there,” said Mike when we interviewed him in 2021. “We had students from all parts of the world. We also had people like myself who’d been in industry or people who were older than me who’d fought in the Army.

“The big annual event at Battersea was the March Hares Ball. These were held at the Royal Festival Hall. We had well-known professional bands, a cabaret… we even had a mind-reader!

“We also attended the President’s Ball. This was much more dignified. The Chancellor came and so did the Queen Mother, who was a marvellous lady!”

Alongside the social and academic life at Battersea, Mike also turned his hand to charitable work.

During the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, he and his friends staged events to support Hungarian students. One fundraising initiative they staged was a ‘happening’ in a troglodyte cave.

Successful career

Following graduation, Mike accepted a role as a Graduate Apprenticeship at a British process engineering contractor. He became a Project Engineer, then he joined US contractors Ralph M Parsons Company (now WorleyParsons), which was headquartered in Los Angeles.

During 12 years there, he helped to set up the business’ UK operation, and he travelled extensively in Europe and Africa. In 1976, Mike moved his family to Brussels to take up the role of Senior Technical Director at an international agricultural chemicals producer.

Returning to the UK, after a brief stint with a Houston-based company providing technological services to the oil and gas sector, Mike decided on a change of direction. He set up his own consultancy company, Peacock Engineering Ltd, to help businesses adopt engineering management software.

Working with major clients across the oil, gas, food, beverage and paper industries, the consultancy was taken over by a Dutch group in 2006.

The Battersea Scholarship Fund 

Around this time, Mike started to recall the opportunities his own scholarship had provided.

“If I hadn’t gone to Battersea, I’d have settled down and stayed for a long, long time in that factory,” he reflected. “Fortunately for me, Battersea was founded by a charitable institution to provide education opportunities to sons and daughters of artisan working-class people.

“The degree education I received there opened many doors. It allowed me to travel the world through work, before returning to the UK to be with my family.”

This prompted Mike to help establish the Battersea Scholarship Fund. He began by contacting and enthusing his fellow alumni. Several mailing campaigns and a large reunion event followed as support grew. More than 100 of Mike’s fellow graduates have contributed and raised £112,000. This will fund nine scholarships to support students estranged from their families to study at Surrey.

Mike commented on this in 2022. “To know the inclusive and supportive spirit of Battersea will be commemorated through these scholarships for many years is a fitting memorial.”

It is also a fitting memorial to Mike.

Cherished memories

Daniel Lawrence, the Regular Giving and Legacy Manager at the University of Surrey, remembers Mike with great affection.

Daniel explains: “At a time when most people would be enjoying retirement, Mike was helping others.

“He was the driving force behind establishing this programme, inspiring his fellow alumni to raise money to ensure the opportunities open to them were available to a new generation.

“One of my favourite memories of Mike is how delighted he was to meet our first two Battersea Scholars, Anwar and Luke. It will remain a cherished memory.

“It’s incredibly sad that Mike is no longer with us. But his legacy lives on in our current two Battersea Scholars – and in all our future ones.”

Read more about the Battersea Scholarship Fund.

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