Rector Trainor reviews events of the Long Vacation
Casual observers of Oxford often suppose – though Exonians of course do not! – that Oxford’s colleges are rather sleepy places during the Long Vacation. Far from it, particularly at Exeter in 2018. For the second successive year Cohen Quad (a classic example of the major impact of Exeter’s philanthropic donations) played host to the Exeter College Summer Programme (ECSP). Once again it attracted dozens of undergraduates from highly regarded East Asian and North American universities to study intensively topics drawn from a broad range of disciplines. In combination with the usual summer schools at Turl Street, ECSP ensured that there were few weeks when the College’s classrooms and bedrooms were sparsely inhabited. There was a well-attended Open Day in mid-September for prospective undergraduate applicants, just before the University’s alumni weekend. The latter featured the conferment on Zurich-based Howard Rosen (1974, Jurisprudence) of the designation Distinguished Friend of Oxford, in recognition of his support of Exeter and of his leading role in founding Swiss Friends of Oxford, which facilitates tax-efficient donations for Oxonians located in Switzerland. An Exeter Gaudy, for alumni who matriculated between 2010 and 2014, was held on the evening of the same day. That lively event was addressed by Joe Bluck (2011, Chemistry). Recently a highly successful President of the Middle Common Room, Joe received a rousing ovation from his undergraduate contemporaries for his not entirely reverent recollections of their time at Exeter. Then, during the past week Jane Hiddleston, Fellow in French, has been organising in College a multidisciplinary conference on literatures which draw on more than one language. This evening (24 September) Exeter is playing host to a University dinner honouring academic visitors from Berlin. This event anticipates Oxford’s research collaboration with the German capital’s universities, a major aspect of the University’s response to Brexit; Exeter Fellow Keith Channon (Cardiovascular Medicine) is playing a leading role on the Oxford side, as is Exeter Visiting Fellow Claudia Olk (Free University of Berlin) within the Berlin contingent. And this weekend the Freshers arrive!
In addition to the Freshers, undergraduates and graduates alike, Exeter will be welcoming five new fellows: Katherine Bull (Staines Medical Research Fellow, from Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine), Rachel Fraser (Philosophy, from Peterhouse Cambridge), Dexnell Peters (Bennett Boskey Fellow in Atlantic History, from Johns Hopkins University), Daniel Quigley (Economics, from Nuffield College, Oxford) and Daniel Snow (Management, from Brigham Young University). At the same time, we’ll also be saying farewell to two much-appreciated Fellows, Jason Carter (Ancient Philosophy) and Gail Hayward (Staines Medical Research Fellow). We’re also marking a ‘changing of the guard’ in the direction of the Williams Exeter Programme, with economist Lucie Schmidt replacing historian Gretchen Long, who became a key part of the Exeter community during her two years here.
In late August Exeter bade a final farewell to a much loved emeritus fellow, Sir John Rowlinson FRS FREng, who died on 15 August at the age of 92. Sir John, who was Dr Lee’s Professor of Chemistry at Oxford between 1974 and 1993, made many important scientific discoveries, notably on capillarity and cohesion, and made major contributions to the history of science. He also supervised generations of DPhil students, many of whom – such as Exeter alumnus Dominic Tildesley (1973, Chemistry), formerly President of the Royal Society of Chemistry – have gone on to illustrious careers in academia and industry. In addition, Sir John was an accomplished climber and a competitive chess player. John lunched daily in College, a custom he maintained until the week before he died. Having been well represented at John’s funeral, Exeter will stage a memorial service in Hilary Term, in association with Trinity (his undergraduate and graduate college) and the Department of Chemistry, through which he published papers as recently as three years ago.
The physical fabric of the College is in productive flux. The much loved mound in the Fellows’ Garden – closed since early summer because of subsidence – has undergone a specialist survey which has laid the basis for repairs which should see Oxford’s finest view restored by the end of Michaelmas Term. The Adoration of the Magi, Exeter’s treasured Pre-Raphaelite tapestry designed by Exonian Edward Burne-Jones, has been temporarily removed from the Chapel prior to being rehung there in museum-quality display conditions. Cohen Quad has been shortlisted for a World Architecture Festival award in the Higher Education and Research category of completed buildings. Meanwhile, planning and fundraising for the much-needed restoration of the library at Turl Street continues, aiming to produce working spaces fit for 21st century students.
During the Long Vacation an especially large group of achievements by alumni and former Exeter faculty members have come to the College’s attention. In public life, Jonathan Wilkinson (1988, PPE) has been appointed to the Cabinet of Canada as Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and Ian Potts (1962, Mathematics) has been given the Freedom of the Borough of Ealing. In academic life, Rina Ariga (2012, Cardiovascular Medicine) has won a series of prizes for her research, Emily Jeremiah (1993, Modern Languages) has been appointed Professor of Contemporary Literature and Gender Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, Emily Jones (2010, Modern British and European History) has won the Longman-History Today Book Prize, and Tarunabh Khaitan (2004, Law) – Hackney Fellow in Law at Wadham – has been awarded the inaugural Letten Prize. Meanwhile, Alice Brooke, formerly Queen Sofia Fellow in Spanish at Exeter, has been appointed Fellow in Spanish at Merton College, Oxford. Last but not least, Carolyn Evans (1995, Law), Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, has been chosen as the next Vice-Chancellor of Griffith University.
Finally, as returning as well as new students are poised on the threshold of Exeter, I note the College Choir’s recent highly successful tour of Estonia. Exeter is fortunate to have students who not only sing so well but also provide such a vibrant presence in College life more generally.