Billionaire businessman Sir James Dyson has revealed how the “creative, relaxed atmosphere” of his former school set him on a path to engineering success.
Sir James has donated £18.75m to Gresham’s school in Holt, Norfolk, where he was a boarding pupil for 10 years from his arrival in 1956.
The school helped pay for his education after his father died.
“Gresham’s isn’t wholly focussed on exams, there are other things in life,” Sir James said.
“I think it was that combination of being able to do those things in a creative, relaxed atmosphere that set me on the road of wanting to create and build things,” he told BBC Inside Out in the East.
The money that has been donated to Gresham’s will fund the building of a centre for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education at the school.
The inventor and engineer said it would “inspire and educate more brilliant young minds”.
He said he was indebted to the then head master Logie Bruce-Lockhart who allowed him and his brother to stay on at Gresham’s when his father, a classics teacher at the school, died.
“I’m hugely grateful to Logie who paid for my brother and myself to continue here when my father died when I was nine and one didn’t have life insurance,” he said.
“I did everything, I was in the orchestra, the Combined Cadet Force Band, acted in every house play. I did sailing, running, I did everything I could to avoid working, I think.”
Sir James has supported engineering in the UK through the James Dyson Foundation which has introduced young people to the subject.
The foundation has donated £12m to Imperial College, to open the Dyson School, and £8m to the University of Cambridge.
Sir James, who invented the revolutionary bagless vacuum cleaner, and his family were ranked as fifth richest in the UK in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated fortune of £12.6bn.
He said he wanted to inspire young people to become engineers and it was vital people understood “design isn’t just about what it looks like, it’s about what it is like to use”.
This story features on BBC Inside Out in the east of England at 19:30 BST on Monday and can be seen afterwards on the iPlayer.