Somerville’s commitment to inclusivity and academic excellence was celebrated by nearly 200 alumni at the 1970-79 Gaudy this June.

Alumnae from the decade of disco and the 3-day week gathered at Somerville for a weekend of events to reunite old friends and celebrate and renew their relationship with the College.

Speakers at the Gaudy observed how Somerville has changed since their student days. Somerville now has male students, and has done since 1994. The physical fabric has changed too, with tours of the almost-complete Catherine Hughes Building giving alumnae a chance to see the latest expansion at close quarters.

Among the changes, they noted how some important values have remained constant as speakers observed that Somerville champions the same radically inclusive ethos today as it has throughout its history.

“When too many remain excluded, pioneering institutions like Somerville are vital” said Sybella Stanley (1979, Ancient and Modern History), Chair of the Somerville Development Board, during her address.

The weekend took on particular significance when Margaret Casely-Hayford CBE (1980, Law) was announced to her peers as the College’s latest Honorary Fellow. Casely-Hayford responded with a heartfelt impromptu speech further reflecting on inclusion and her time at Somerville. While promoting diversity has long been part of Casely-Hayford’s professional life, most recently as Chancellor of Coventry University, her support for the charity Target Oxbridge brings the topic closer to Somerville.

“The sense of being included doesn’t necessarily come from institutions; it comes from the hand extended to you by the people around you. While having a place at Oxford of itself didn’t make me feel a part of this community, the people in this room did – I am grateful to you all for that.” she said.

She went on to cite Grime artist Stormzy, who performed at Glastonbury Festival during the same weekend, saying “this is the best day of my life.”

Miriam Griffin (née Dressler, 1957, Classics) was also fondly remembered during the weekend. The scholar, who taught Ancient History to many of the attendees, died in May 2018.

Other events during the Gaudy included a Ruby 40th Reunion Lunch for the 1978-9 alumni, and a lecture and tour of the Ashmolean museum from Stephanie Dalley, our Honorary Senior Research Fellow who is best known for her work on texts in the cuneiform script and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

All agreed that Somerville continues to provide a wealth of academic and extracurricular riches to its students. As Dr June Raine (1971, Physiology) noted in her address, “one friend of mine bemoaned, ‘I’m surrounded by insurmountable opportunities!’”.

Somerville alumna speak to College Principal Jan Royall. Photo (c) John Cairns

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