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Departures and returns

The past few weeks have been a mixture of highs and lows. It has been difficult to focus on the high points in the light of the tragedy we faced with the death of Jonathan Roberts.

Beyond that tragic event, which will remain in our minds, Somervillians have been in celebratory mode. A dinner for our leavers gathered about 180 people in the College Hall on 24 June. A delicious menu and some wonderful singing by the choir with a virtuoso piano performance by departing organ scholar Tristan Mitchard, all added to the abundant high spirits; and even the pouring rain seemed unable to dampen them. Three recent alumni, Beth Seaman, Verity Holland and Max Luedecke returned specially to College to remind those leaving this summer that they will always be welcome members of the Somerville Association. I mustered my thoughts for a Leavers Dinner address.

Gaudy 2011The following weekend, 2 to 3 July, saw our annual Gaudy celebration, this time for people who came up to Somerville in the years between 1935 and 1955. The assembled company of nearly two hundred included at least two nonagenarians. It was inspiriting to mingle with a crowd of people showing such loyalty to the College and such interest in its modern incarnation. As always when I meet members of the extended Somerville community, I was deeply impressed by the stories of people’s careers in this country and abroad, and the common threads of inventiveness and public service that characterise so many of them. I was also able to add usefully to my stock of College anecdotes: Dame Janet Vaughan “driving like a kangaroo”, for instance, and a new and very benign light on the formidable Mary Lascelles who was Somerville’s senior English Fellow for many years.

There have been many notes of appreciation since the gaudy. The College gardens have attracted special praise. This is the high point of the year for our gardeners Robert Washington and David Townsend, and they have done us proud. Old Somervillians include many enthusiastic gardeners, and they were suitably impressed.

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