Born in Yorkshire, England, to missionary parents, Taylor’s father died before he was born, and once he was six months old, his mother returned to work in Africa, taking him with her. He grew up in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he learned the local language, Kiluba, before he learned English. World War II sent them back to England, but his love of travel stuck. After his undergraduate studies (in history) at Cambridge, Taylor went to Harvard for an MBA (with an emphasis in entrepreneurial studies), and was hired by Procter & Gamble’s marketing department. There, he met his wife, a French teacher. In the summer of 1964, he helped his wife organize a trip for her students to France to learn the language. Taylor realized there was a market to help create student trips abroad with teachers for study abroad. He combined his love of travel, education, and social entrepreneurism to start a new organization to make such trips easier to put together: the American Institute for Foreign Study. He quit P&G, recruiting a couple of his co-workers to work full time on the idea. Since then, AIFS has helped more than 1.5 million students go on foreign study tours — including This is True founder Randy Cassingham, who studied literature at St. Andrews University in Scotland during his last summer in high school.
Taylor returned to live in England, where he founded the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust; founded Richmond, The American International University in London (the first university to be fully accredited in both the U.S. and U.K.); served on the Greater London Council for nine years; and was recruited as a director of Margaret Thatcher’s Centre for Policy Studies, a think tank. Meanwhile, he served as Education Adviser to ten successive Secretaries of State for Education from both Conservative and Labour governments. Taylor has the rare honor of having been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II twice: first in 1989 (Knight Bachelor), and then again in 2004 (Knight Grand Cross of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his services to education. Sir Cyril Julian Hebden Taylor served as Chairman of AIFS until his death, on January 29. He was 82.