Business School With Deep Ties to Shipping Reconsiders its Namesake

Singapore freight forwarders – Star Concord

City, University of London is changing the name of its Cass Business School following an inquiry into the history of its namesake, the 18th-century merchant Sir John Cass.

The Cass Business School is known well in the maritime world for its masters program in shipping, trade and finance. It is also the home of the highly-regarded Costas Grammenos Centre for Shipping, Trade and Finance, which is credited for playing a key role in the recent evolution of London as a center of financial activity for the shipping industry. Originally known as City’s Business School, it was renamed the Sir John Cass Business School in 2001 after a generous donation from Sir John Cass’s Foundation, one of London’s oldest and largest educational charities. 

Sir John Cass (1660-1718) was a prominent shipping magnate, philanthropist and politician in London. Among other business ventures, Cass was for three years a member of the Court of Assistants for the Royal African Company, which held a crown-issued monopoly on the slave trade between West Africa and the New World. He retained shares in the firm until his passing. 

City, University of London (formerly known as City University) recently began a review of all of its historic sources of funding, drawing inspiration from the Black Lives Matter movement. The work began in June, and City’s review panel identified the source of the Cass fortune as a potential issue early on. Its final report is not due until August, but City’s council took a unanimous vote to change the business school’s name on July 3. For now, it will be known once more as City’s Business School. 

The move followed a similar decision by the foundation itself. In a statement in June, Sir John Cass’s Foundation acknowledged that a portion of the wealth gained by Sir John Cass was obtained through slavery. The foundation has removed his statue from the outside of its offices in London, and it has committed to change its own name going forward. 

“It is clear to us now, that while firmly committed to combatting racism, we failed to consider whether our own 300-year-old name and history compounded the problem. We have also continued to celebrate Sir John Cass without explaining or acknowledging his connection to slavery and human exploitation, or the hurt and anger this has caused amongst our beneficiaries and our community. We recognise, acknowledge, seek to understand, and apologize, for the public hurt and anger,” Sir John Cass’s Foundation said in a statement. “So let us be clear: we no longer consider the Sir John Cass name appropriate to represent us and the work that we do in this century or in the future. We commit to a change of name.”

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