The Repton Book Prize

 “In our house, reading was the primary group activity. On Saturday afternoons we curled up with our books in the den. It was the best of both worlds: you had the animal warmth of your family right next to you, but you also got to roam around the adventure-land inside your own head.” 

The scene described by Susan Cain in her best-selling book ‘Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’ could just as well have been of the Lownds family. Harry in particular loved books with an abiding passion. While boarding at Foremarke Hall he was asked one weekend if he had any books which needed to be returned to the school library. “Not really” came the reply, but with that tell-tale twinkle in his eye which so often suggested that there might just be something more to the situation than Harry was giving away. Low and behold, 10 minutes later, a sum total of 22 library books were found amongst Harry’s possessions, at which point he calmly said, “Well, that’s not too many – is it?”.  In preparing for the family’s move to Moscow in January, Harry similarly packed only the bare essentials: five shelf feet of his favourite books (leaving his bedroom bookshelves merely double-stacked).

It seemed natural, therefore, for Harry’s family to establish a book prize in his memory linked to his other great passion: the Life Sciences. The ‘Harry Lownds Biology Prize’ is to be awarded each summer at Repton School’s Speech Day to the Upper Sixth form pupil who has made the most effort in their approach through the two year A-level biology course. 

 Family members and friends were proud to be in the Speech Day audience on 29 June when the first prize was presented to Katherine Carr.  A few weeks later August’s GCSE results day prompted the Lownds family to catch up with the news feed on the school website where they were very pleased to learn that Katherine had got the A-level grades she needed to be accepted into Edinburgh University’s medical school. Harry would have been wearing his habitual Cheshire Cat grin too.

The Harry Lownds Memorial Scholarship

The first scholarship to be awarded in Harry’s memory was “The Harry Lownds Memorial Scholarship” was announced by Sussex University on 1 July, alerting students planning to register for its Genetic Manipulation and Molecular Cell Biology MSc of the opportunity for a graduate whose personal circumstances might otherwise hinder them from taking up their place to receive £3,000 in additional financial support.  The University, Harry’s former course-mates and contacts he had made through placements at the MRC Mammalian Genetics Laboratory in Harwell and at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford made sure that the scholarship was widely advertised among potential MSc Genetics students.

Harry’s family were very pleased to learn at the beginning of September that the University had decided to award the scholarship to a recent graduate of the University of Coventry, Ieva Didziokaite.  During her Biomedical Sciences degree Ieva spent a placement year back in her homeland of Lithuania as part of the Erasmus+ programme working for Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics.  There she gained molecular genetics experience and she is now looking forward to expanding her knowledge and skills with a view to pursuing her passion for genetics research in the future. Her aspiration is to work for the 100,000 Genomes or subsequent projects, analysing whole genome sequences in rare diseases and cancer, and to see how personalised medicine can change the world’s healthcare systems.

As a result of fundraising efforts by Harry’s family and friends in the six months since his death over £14,500 has now been raised towards the Scholarship Fund.  This should allow a scholarship to be awarded in his memory through to at least 2023 – and his family intends to continue fundraising to ensure that this can be sustained for many years to come.