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Trevor Pears CMG

(Elected 2010)


Trevor Pears CMG has been Executive Chair of Pears Foundation, a British family foundation rooted in Jewish values, since 2003. Its work is concerned with positive identity and citizenship.

In 2010 the Foundation established the  Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck. It is a centre of innovative research and teaching which also contributes to policy formation and debate. Led by Professor David Feldman, and working closely with The Wiener Library, the Institute is both independent and inclusive and is one of only two such centres  in Europe. The Institute is the result of several years of work and reflects the Foundation's approach, which is based strongly on research and evaluation, and its philosophy of replacing 'tolerance' with 'understanding'.

The Foundation has a strong track record of partnerships with Higher Education Institutions in the UK and abroad, including the establishment of the Holocaust Education Development Programme and the Centre for Research in Autism Education, both located at the Institute  of Education; the creation of a European  Israel Studies Association; and a scholarships programme for students from the developing world to study health and agriculture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Trevor Pears says of the Institute: “We believe that the study of antisemitism is vital to the understanding of all racism and xenophobia. We established the Institute with Birkbeck because it is a vibrant centre of academic excellence, has a multi-disciplinary approach, and a reputation for world class research.”   Appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2011  New Year Honours for services to the community  and UK/Israel relations, Trevor Pears is also  a member of the Philanthropy Review, an independent body examining the role of  giving in society.

Trevor, who has a BA (Hons) in Business Law, is also Director of The William Pears Group, and is married with three children.


Master, Distinguished Governors, Graduates and Guests.

Trevor Pears is a Director of the William Pears Group, which he runs, from its offices in Hampstead, along with his brothers, Mark and David. The Group is 100% family-owned and managed, as it has been since it was set up in 1952 by Bernard Pears, the brothers’ grandfather and Clive his son. The original focus of the company was on commercial property development, but during the 1960s it expanded into property investment. Mark Pears took over management of the company in 1984, following the death of their father. Trevor joined him the following year, at the tender age of 16, if I have counted right, and their brother David in 1987. The heart of its business remains property management and development. It owns at least 5000 properties in London in the rented residential sector and commercial real estate, and is one of the largest and most active residential property investors in Britain. More recently the group has developed associations with 30 joint venture partners, with whom it has invested in the development of pubs, hotels, petrol stations, cinemas, residential developments and other commercial properties.

Averse to high-publicity, high-risk financial adventures, the William Pears Group has been sometimes been characterised as the plodding oxen of the financial world, ploughing their profitable furrow steady, straight and deep, while more flamboyantly speculative companies try to shoot the moon and in due course light up the sky with their supernova collapses. The Pears Group website announces in typically taciturn fashion that its policy has always been long-term growth with conservative borrowings. They value their private status and their tight focus – their board is small, and many of those who work for the group have done so for many years – and this enables them both to make swift and decisive investment moves, and also to keep focussed on long-term strategic objectives.

One of these long-term objectives has been in the area of charitable donation. The secure position of the Pears Group has underpinned the work of the Pears Foundation, of which Trevor Pears has been the Executive Director since 2003. It has been a major funder of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award since 2003, and also provides resources for children with special needs, with a special focus on children with autism; it also has a longstanding relationship with the RNIB.

The Pears Institute aims to be ‘a critical friend’ of Israel, encouraging it to make good its founders’ visions to be a force for good in the world, and assisting it in the building of relations with the developing world, for example through the Pears Scholars initiative, which allows students and medical practitioners from Africa to come to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to develop skills and expertise to take back to their countries. In 2009, Trevor Pears joined the United Kingdom Task Force on Arab Citizens of Israel, a new Jewish community initiative to promote understanding and equality for Israel's Arab citizens The was set up last year by a collaborative group of Jewish organizations, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews, United Jewish Israel Appeal and the Pears Foundation, to try to deepen understanding of issues facing Israeli Arabs among British Jews and draw together resources to improve their political and economic position.

Like the Pears Group, the Pears Foundation has an unusually integrated and long-term approach to charitable funding, and pays close attention to the nature of philanthropy itself. It commissions research into philanthropy in order to develop an understanding of the most effective ways in which the benefits of charitable giving can be maximised, and aims to work as partners rather than just providers to the institutions and undertakings it funds. In a letter to The Times of October 2010 Trevor Pears drew on research that the Pears Foundation had commissioned from the Cass Business School to point out that the largest 100 family foundations in the UK invested more than £1.4 billion in charitable causes in 2008-9 and had maintained this donation level undeterred by the recession. The letter urged other wealthy individuals and families to respond to the example set by such foundations.

The following month saw the first Pears Business School Partnership lecture at the London Business School. The Pears Business School Partnership was set up with funding from the Pears Institute in order to encourage deeper thinking among MBA students about the role of business in society. The 2010 inaugural event aimed to encourage UK business to eschew the culture of smash-and-grab profit snatching, and to embrace a culture of responsibility for the common good. Trevor Pears himself joined those urging that ‘greater thought needs to be given to the role that business and business leaders can play in tackling social issues’. Echoing the Quaker principle that ‘doing good is good business’, the event emphasised the principle that profit is not to be regarded the aim of a business, but rather the sign that the business is being well-conducted.

In November 2010 year, the Pears Foundation made a generous donation of £1.5 million to set up the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, its first Director being Professor David Feldman, a Birkbeck historian who has a long track record of work on immigration and racial identity. The work of the Institute will be integrated with the Holocaust Education Development Program at the University of London's Institute of Education, which the Pears Foundation set up to improve the teaching of the subject of the Holocaust in British schools. It will also take advantage of the Wiener Library, which is the world’s oldest institution for the study of antisemitism and the crimes of Nazi Germany, the history of German and Central European Jewry, the Holocaust and its aftermath. It is a major archive comprising not only 60,000 books and 2,000 periodical titles but also 1.5 million pages of archival material and will be relocating this year to 29 Russell Square, adjoining the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism.

In the New Years Honours List of 2011, Trevor Pears was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George for his services to the community and to UK/Israeli relations. The motto of the order is auspicium melioris aevi – ‘the portent of a better time’. The motto adopted by the Pears Foundation projects a somewhat more pressing timetable, asking, on its website, ‘If not now, when?’. The question echoes the great words of Hillel the Elder, a Babylonian Jew who studied and taught in Jerusalem around the time of Jesus of Nazareth. ‘If I am not for myself, who is for me? Yet if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?’ Hillel had a talent for epigrammatic brevity that is perhaps not universally shared among Talmudic commentators. When a Gentile asked for a soundbite explanation of the Jewish Torah that could be given to him while he stood on one foot and before he overbalanced, Hillel took up the challenge that his rabbinical colleagues had spurned, replying ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to others: that is the whole of the Law. The rest is explanation. Go and learn.’

The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck is only one of the many ways in which, through his work with the Pears Foundation, Trevor Pears has helped to make actual the admonition of Hillel the Elder, enabling people of many different kinds and conditions to come and learn. We mark our admiration for his work today by welcoming him with pride and gratitude as Fellow of Birkbeck.