Spirit of Somerville award celebrates kindness

12th June 2018

The inaugural Pat Harris Spirit of Somerville Award – which celebrates depth of character and kindness – was awarded jointly to Emily Louise and Aleksandra Rutkowska.

Spirit of Somerville award: Aleksandra Rutkowska, Pat Harris, Emily Louise and Aaron Maniam

Emily, studying History, was nominated by Steve Rayner, senior tutor. She was inspired to apply to Somerville by a visit to her school during the Access roadshow.

Steve said: “Emily is now putting energy and dedication into encouraging other prospective students from non-traditional backgrounds to choose Oxford and Somerville. We are very proud of her.”

Alek, studying for an MSt History of Art and Visual Culture, was nominated by Connor Scott, president of the MCR.

Connor said: “Alek can be found most days working hard in the MCR and despite her dedication to her research she is always available to talk to and provide support and guidance for our members. She never fails to surprise me with her compassion to others. While she is passionate about injustice, she does not preach, but calmly explains her perspective.”

The award was initiated by Aaron Maniam (1998, PPE) in honour of Pat Harris, a porter at the Lodge during Aaron’s time as an undergraduate. Aaron recalls that Pat took her pastoral role seriously and made sure College was a home away from home.  Aaron’s wishes are that the annual prize is awarded to a current student who exemplifies the Spirit of Somerville.

Aaron said: ““Somerville was always a space where one could be deeply academic, but also where non-academic qualities like kindness, perseverance, teamwork and tenacity were valued.

“Pat epitomised these things and I’m very glad the College has been so supportive of this award in her name.

“Meeting Emily and Alek, and learning about their wonderful work, reassures me that in a world where the negative tends to be newsworthy, the unique spirit of Somerville is alive and well.”

The award selection committee felt that both Emily and Alek had made such a strong contribution to Somerville this year that they could not choose between them, and decided to make a joint award.

The two students received £300 each. Donations to fund future awards are welcome. Alumni wishing to contribute to the award can do by contacting

To support the Spirit of Somerville award, please visit our crowdfunding project.

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