Open Eye: Wider horizons for graduates' chairman

Opening Up
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The Independent Online
Retired engineer and charity worker David Ogilvie is about to be elected Chair of the Association of Open University Graduates, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary.

A Cambridge University graduate, David studied arts with the OU and graduated in Brussels while working with a European Union development organisation.

What was your family background?

My parents - who were both Scots - came from strongly academic backgrounds and used to impress on me and my brothers the importance of taking education as far as possible. Although classics and the arts were in the bloodstream, I tended to rebel in the direction of science.

What was your earliest ambition?

I was always fascinated by how things worked and so I set my heart on engineering. As a child I met John Logie Baird and later Frank Whittle, and these and other industrial pioneers were my heroes.

How were your school years?

My schools gave me openings into wide choices, first the classics and then, with a U-turn greatly assisted by my teachers, into engineering - which I was able to follow through at Cambridge University.

What was your first job and what did you earn?

To everyone's surprise, including my own, I was accepted for the Overseas Civil Service in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) on a salary of pounds 330 a year - which although not princely, was enough to marry on.

What made you start studying with the OU?

In my last major job in Brussels I became aware of the OU which was recruiting students in the wake of BBC TV programmes on cable in Belgium.

This fuelled a long-term ambition I had to move back into study of the arts. It introduced me to new subjects, new friends and fresh academic goals to aim at. My final examination was taken in Fiji, where I was on an assignment - proving that the OU's organisation stretches right round the world.

What difference has the OU made?

After a career in a specific industrial field, I have had my horizons widened dramatically by the OU. This has given me enthusiasm for new projects. My OU studies have added a new dimension to my travels and appreciation of music and literature. And I've made many new friends among other graduates through the AOUG.

What does your current job involve?

Although retired I am active in a charity, British Executive Service Overseas, which sends retired professional and other people as volunteers to work in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

How did you get it ?

The work of the charity is similar, on a voluntary basis, to what I had been doing as a Eurocrat, so the transition from one to another was straightforward.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

Working in developing countries.

.... and least?

Conditions as a volunteer can sometimes be rugged, and even dangerous.

Would you do more OU study? If so, what?

I'd like to undertake a higher degree when time permits, probably into literary research.

To what do your attribute your success?

I go back to my parents' advice - 'invest in education'. It pays off.

What do you most regret( if anything)?

That I didn't take the opportunities open to me (including OU study) earlier, and with more confidence.

What are your goals for the future?

In the short term to see that AOUG, now ten years old, grows in stature and influence among OU graduates and the university.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a moderate, someone who has been willing to listen, to learn and, where possible, to help.