Who's who - Trustees

Our expert Trustees use their skills and experience from other industries to guide and advise RSBC.

Chair of RSBC – Ian Stephenson BSC, MSC, OBE

Ian became Chair of RSBC in May 2010. Prior to this Ian had been a trustee since 2006. His initial involvement with us was because of our long-standing association with Johnson Matthey. In effect, Ian was the Johnson Matthey appointee to our Council of Trustees. Our association with Johnson Matthey goes back to 1838 when Elizabeth Lydia Johnson, the wife of Percival Norton Johnson co-founder of the Johnson Matthey corporate body, was Chair of our first Ladies Committee.

Notwithstanding this historical connection with Johnson Matthey, Ian’s commitment to our charitable cause stems directly from the fact that he has a daughter who is visually impaired from birth. As a parent, he has experienced many of the issues that confront parents of children and young people who have little or no sight so he understands only too well the issues in the educational environment. He also appreciates the difficulties and barriers that many visually impaired people face as they make the difficult transition from adolescence to adulthood.

Ian has extensive senior management experience, having been with Johnson Matthey for 21 years as it has grown to become a major international business and FTSE 100 company. He has been a member of the company’s executive committee for much of that time.

He has undertaken a number of roles in developing the company’s environmental businesses and currently has direct responsibility for the company’s professional staff including HR, pensions and environmental affairs, among others. Ian was awarded an OBE in 2007 for Services to the Environment.

He is Deputy Chairman of the Carbon Trust Ltd and Chairman of Carbon Trust Enterprises Ltd, which develops low carbon businesses. Ian has a number of other responsibilities in the European precious metals and chemicals sector and intends to scale back these activities to devote more time to RSBC affairs.

Ian is a charted engineer by profession holding first and second degrees in engineering. He started his working life in the chemical industry and prior to Johnson Matthey followed an international career with Unilever.

Ben Alonso

Ben brings 10 years of charity sector experience with him. He has previously worked at a range of regional and national charities such as University of Kent's Student union, Hospice in the Weald, The Diocese of London and Richard House Children’s Hospice. Ben has garnered a wide breadth of fundraising experience including managing organisational change and development. With a passion for building relationships and developing staff, Ben incorporates a relationship fundraising approach to everything he does.

Ben is the Director of Fundraising at the Church Urban Fund and is responsible for driving the charity’s income generation and supporter growth. In his spare time, he enjoys travelling and recently embarked on completing the CMI Level 7 Strategic Management and Leadership course.

John Miller

John recently retired from full-time work as the Clerk / Chief Executive of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, an established City of London Livery Company, which has supported the RSBC for many years providing John with an insight into the Charity.

Prior to that John worked in senior marketing and business development roles in both the commercial and charity sectors, more recently in local government. John has also successfully run entire businesses.

John has a strong record of teamwork, development of new ideas, communicating with different interest groups, prioritising decisions and working within a specific budget and timescale. John has a passion for the work of RSBC, and now has the time to devote his
energy, commitment, people and business skills to help the Charity.

Michael Brignall MA

Michael graduated in mathematics from Oxford in 1961. He spent his career in the field of information technology, culminating in 12 years as a partner in KPMG, London. After retiring Michael worked as a part-time lecturer for eight years with the University of Greenwich, specialising in MSc courses in Finance and Financial Information Systems.

A local Methodist preacher he was treasurer of the Trustees of Methodist Central Hall Westminster and is treasurer of Drive Methodist Church in Sevenoaks. He holds a number of trustee roles with Methodist charities. Michael became a trustee of RSBC in 2005 and is Chair of the Board of Governors of Dorton College, RSBC’s Further Education College. Married with three daughters and two grandchildren, Michael’s interests are golf, bridge and music.

Valerie May BA

Val has over 30 years’ experience in education the majority in special needs. At 27 she became Deputy Head of Little Heath School in Essex. She later founded the Beth Marie Centre in Sevenoaks while working for Kent Local Education Authority.

When West Heath, the school formerly attended by Diana Princess of Wales, went into receivership in 1997 she campaigned to keep it as a school. This was successful and led to the establishment of The New School at West Heath. Val served as Principal and CEO for 10 years and Ambassador for a further year.

Val joined the Board of RSBC in 2011. She is also a Governor of Dorton College, RSBC’s Further Education College.

Patrick Plant

Patrick joined the Board in October 2014. Patrick is a partner at global law firm Linklaters. He has been with Linklaters for over 30 years and during this time spent eight years as Global Head of the Real Estate Department. Patrick also sits on the Board of The British Library and the Council of The Royal College of Art.

Martin Doel CBE

Martin was appointed as the first Professor of Leadership in Further Education and Skills at University College London Institute of Education in April 2016 after having previously been the Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) from 2008; AoC represents and supports Further Education Colleges. Prior to this Martin served for 28 years in the Royal Air Force in a wide range of operational support and command posts. His final appointment was as Director of Training and Education for all three Armed Services.

He was appointed OBE in 1998 for work in support of operations in the Balkans and for his contribution to Anglo-German relations, and CBE in 2016 for services to further and higher education.

Martin’s particular research interests at UCL (IOE) are concerned with the distinctive contribution that further education can make to national prosperity and individual well-being, and the leadership challenges facing further education providers of all kinds. Martin joined the Board of RSBC in 2015.

Ian Godwin

Ian joined Johnson Matthey in 1981 and had a 36 year career with the company. Ian started as a technical sales representative and in 1984 he became an Asia region sales manager based in Hong Kong. In 1985 he set up Johnson Matthey’s first company in South Korea and in 1988 he was appointed General Manager for South East Asia, based in Singapore.

In 1992 Ian returned to the UK and became Group Public Relations Manager based at the company’s headquarters in London. Five years later he was appointed Group Corporate Communications Manager. His work in the field of investor relations and corporate communications has been recognised by awards from the Investor Relations Magazine / Financial Times UK Investor Relations Awards among others. Ian was appointed Director Investor Relations and Corporate Communications in 2005. In 2014, Ian returned to work in Singapore and retired from Johnson Matthey in the Summer of 2017.

Ian was a Trustee of RSBC from 2011-14 and following a period working abroad, rejoined the Board in 2017. He is also a Governor of Dorton College, RSBC’s Further Education College.

John Heller

John is a qualified solicitor, formerly a partner in Nabarro Nathanson (now part of CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP) specialising in corporate finance; Managing Partner from 1989 to 1993. From 1998 to 2012 he was a director and shareholder of Neville James Group, a “boutique” market-making and fund management business specialising in the mid-term endowment policy sector. John is now retired.

Since 1992 he has been a Trustee of a privately endowed grant-giving charity which specialises in medical research. He was a Trustee of The Eyeless Trust/Royal Blind Society for the United Kingdom from 2003 and, upon merger of that charity with the Royal London Society for Blind People in January 2017, became a Trustee of the new Royal Society for Blind Children (RSBC).

Honorary Treasurer - Peter Knott

Peter is a Managing Director in the Green Investment Group at Macquarie Capital based in the United Kingdom. Prior to the acquisition of UK Green Investment Bank plc by the Macquarie Group in August 2017, Peter was the Chief Financial Officer and Executive Director, having originally joined on the launch in 2012 as the Chief Risk Officer. Prior to that, Peter had held a number of senior roles at Standard Chartered, including Group Treasurer, Consumer Banking Group Chief Risk Officer and Group Head of Operational Risk.

He qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Deloitte in London and spent the early part of his career with Jardine Fleming in Hong Kong and Tokyo before moving to New York with JPMorgan Chase as CFO for the Global M&A and Investment Banking Coverage groups.

He is an Advisory Board member at the Centre for Climate Finance and Investment at Imperial College Business School and joined the Royal Society for Blind Children as a Trustee in 2017.

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