Roger Bowers, who has served as deputy lord lieutenant of West Yorkshire, paid for a bursary that enabled Charlie Kelly, 18, to study at Bradford Grammar School.
His faith in Charlie was vindicated today when her A Level results confirmed her place at the University of Cambridge to read engineering.
Mr Bowers, now of Otley, grew up in a terraced house in Bradford Moor and went to the fee-paying school when it was part of the government's direct grant scheme, which provided assisted places. He went on to run his own company.
Charlie is one of 19 children he has sponsored through the school and she transferred to Bradford Grammar from Dixons Academy.
Mr Bowers said: "To me, it has been a great stimulus to my life seeing the bursary opportunities these young people are given. I enjoyed this opportunity many years ago and from my experience then I know it’s a huge start for them in life. Every year I have a chat with each of them - just gentle advice and encouragement. They are great kids and then somebody like Charlie comes along and that really is a bonus. It makes it all worthwhile.”
Charlie, who achieved A* grades in maths, further maths, physics and chemistry, lives in Allerton with her mother and two older sisters. He father died when she was six years old.
She said: “I expected to get high grades, but I didn’t know if I’d get the A*s in physics and further maths to get into Cambridge. It’s been quite emotional getting the results. It’s going to take a while for it to sink in.
“The place at Bradford Grammar completely changed my life. It opened up the world of learning to me. It’s not just about the quality of education, it’s who you surround yourself with. If you’re in a school that cares about learning, you will succeed.”
Bradford Grammar School headteacher Dr Simon Hinchliffe added: “We’re delighted to see Charlie has achieved outstanding A Level results after all her hard work. She is a credit to our school, and we know she will go on to do great things.
“A good education can be a transformative experience, as Charlie has shown, which is why we want to help as many young people as possible through our growing assisted places programme.”