The Rank Foundation was formed in 1953 by J. Arthur Rank, who was one of the most influential figures in British film in the 20th Century. Lord and Lady Rank made a decision to channel the proceeds from their controlling shareholding in the Rank Organisation towards charitable and Christian purposes. Lord Rank was profoundly interested in young people – in giving them opportunities, whether through education or other means. This is reflected in the work of the Foundation, especially the School Leadership Award, which has made a significant impact on the lives of over 1,000 people since its inauguration in 1978.
When Fred Packard, the grandson of J. Arthur Rank, became chairman of The Rank Foundation, he was keen to create a forum through which Rank Fellows could have contact with each other. Part of his vision was to find a way of harnessing the experience and expertise of these talented individuals for the benefit of voluntary organisations in need of their help. Previously, Fellows had little or no contact with other beneficiaries of the Leadership Award. Indeed, until relatively recently, The Rank Foundation remained anonymous, with only a school’s Head and the Bursar aware of the donor’s identity.
Efforts began to contact all 1,000 former Fellows a considerable challenge given that the only source of information as to their whereabouts was usually the schools they had attended many years previously. A Dinner was held in London on 12 November 2003, to mark 25 years of the School Leadership Award. It was attended by over 100 former Fellows and the Rank Fellowship was formally launched.
Jason Chaffer, one of the earliest Fellows, was invited to chair a Steering Group of former Fellows tasked with getting the Rank Fellowship off the ground. This Steering Committee meets four times a year in London. It has organised Mentoring Evenings, Charity Evenings, regional gatherings and social events. Future events are publicised on the website and through a regular email newsletter.