A sad loss for UWC: the passing away of Antonin Besse
We are deeply saddened by the news that Antonin Besse, patron and Honorary Vice-President of UWC, has passed away. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
UWC is most grateful for Antonin Besse’s – or, as many in the UWC community refer to him, Tony’s – deep commitment and outstanding generosity to UWC since its inception. Without his contribution and dedication three of the UWC Colleges, namely UWC Atlantic, UWC Adriatic and UWC Mostar, would likely not have been founded.
In 1960, Antonin Besse donated St Donat’s Castle, the home of the founding UWC college, UWC Atlantic, to the governing body of the college. This most generous donation was a key step in bringing to life the vision of UWC’s founding fathers: to build an institution where education could be a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.
Antonin Besse was also strongly involved in the foundation of UWC Adriatic and supported the college for many years. In his book, “Kurt Hahn and the United World Colleges with other Founding Figures” David Sutcliffe, the founding Head of UWC Adriatic, gives an account of the joy Tony took in working with eminent Italians on the foundation of UWC Adriatic, and refers to Tony acting as one of the main negotiators for securing properties in Duino, UWC Adriatic’s host village.
In 2001 it was again due to his generosity that one of UWC’s most courageous projects was made possible: the founding of UWC in Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was the first UWC established in a post-conflict area and a city and country with deep ethnic divides and a most difficult political context.
It was also thanks to Antonin Besse’s determination and generosity that students from Yemen started to attend the UWC schools and colleges. He not only provided the financial means for their scholarships but was also involved in their selection. As Richard Lamont, Rektor of UWC Red Cross Nordic, recounts in UWC RCN’s tribute to Antonin Besse, the motto “from nowhere to somewhere” drove Tony’s commitment towards the Yemeni students and is in many ways representative of UWC’s continued effort to provide a world class values-based educationto students who would otherwise never have access to it.
The UWC community has been extremely fortunate to be able to count on Antonin Besse’s commitment, dedication and passion for bringing together students from all around the world for an education for peace and sustainability. We will always remember him as one of UWC’s founding fathers and most visionary supporters and we will always be grateful for his extraordinary generosity.
(In the picture, an early meeting of Antonin Besse with Lord Mountbatten)