It is with great sadness that we learned this week that Frank Hitchman has died.
Frank Hitchman was until his death the Secretary of the Dementia Services Development Trust. The Dementia Services Deveopment Centre (DSDC) is the brain child of the Trust.
Through his efforts, Frank led to transformation in the lives of many thousands of people with dementia and their carers.
Frank Hitchman played an important role in his support of DSDC, which recently celebrated its 25th birthday. Now the Centre that he helped to create is recognised across the world, and is in demand internationally as a recognised leader in the dementia and Alzheimer’s field.
Frank did a number of things personally.
He led a group of people who raised around £3 million to create the DSDC building (the Iris Murdoch Building) which was the first dementia friendly public building in the world when it was opened in 2003. The DSDC is now acknowledged as an international source of evidence based expertise and support for people who live with, or support people who are living with, dementia. His vision was for something different from the lobbying role of advocacy groups like Alzheimer Scotland or the Alzheimer’s Society and complementary to their work. The DSDC was to focus on what is practical and makes a difference, and to deliver this at low cost or free to people who could not afford it. His dogged determination to make this work, and his wise counsel for the staff of the centre and the trustees of the Trust over many years have had a huge impact.
In his personal contribution to fundraising since the Centre was opened Frank created an amazing range of cultural events that brought money into the Trust. Examples include an art exhibition, where a percentage of the sales was donated to the Trust. When the sales got slow, he bought pictures himself. It raised tens of thousands of pounds. He arranged for a harpsichord concert in the Signet Library in Edinburgh. Some might have thought that the time and effort of this might produce small receipts but he calculated wisely that the sort of people who attended were in a great position to make large donations. These are just examples. He has used all his contacts in the arts world to put on premium events that brought friends to support the work of the centre. His energy, and capacity to get others to open their chequebook is legendary. He persuaded the Countess of Weymss to open her home for a fundraising gala dinner and concert.
Frank persuaded Dame Judi Dench to formally open the Iris Murdoch Building and become a patron of the Trust; a role that she continues fourteen years on bringing much needed publicity that also attracts resources.
He had a great financial career but amusingly described himself as a “double entry book keeper”. In that role he presided over the finances of the Dementia Services Development Trust committee. In this volunteer role he wrestled with minor complications of small amounts of cash that made a huge difference to a lot of people, in exchange for a cup of black coffee and a biscuit. After a career at the top, as the finance director of a global oil company, that is impressive. He spent hours with paperwork and with auditors, and carefully watched over all the resources.
Frank diffidently accepted an honorary degree from the University of Stirling in recognition of the fact that many millions have been donated through the Trust to the work of the DSDC. He allowed the University to name the gallery in the Iris Murdoch Building “the Frank Hitchman Gallery” but the brass plate had to be modest in size, and near the coat racks. We at DSDC are all grateful for the work Frank did for the Trust and the Centre.