On 4 and 5 September 2014, over 100 staff and students of the first cohorts of S Martin’s College (I have been told to omit the ‘t’, or College Principal, Hugh Pollard would be very upset!) gathered on campus in Lancaster to celebrate 50 years since the college opened in 1964.
Alumni Andrew McFadyen and David Woodhouse have remained good friends ever since their time on campus 50 years ago and regularly meet up for a round of golf and this was where the idea originated. Andrew then contacted the Alumni Office and, as this would be the first large scale reunion event and a celebration of an important milestone, we were only too happy to help.
A laughter-filled meeting with Andrew, David and their fellow alumnus, Nikki Wolstenholme, was held in April 2013 and the outline programme for the reunion was agreed.
Some twelve months of detective work followed to trace those alumni from the first cohorts of 1964, 65 and 66, with adverts in the local press, letters to addresses from an old hand written list and even a browse on Friends Reunited (anyone remember this!). We were delighted by the response and even more so when our research also traced several members of staff from those early beginnings.
The sun shone on the event which started with registration and a welcome lunch in the Old Dining Hall - a room everyone knew so well. This was the first opportunity to get reacquainted and to view the Exhibition of Memories we created from photographs and memorabilia, sent in by the graduates or from our own archives.
The film footage kindly donated by Dr Chippendale was particularly emotional as it contained rare footage of the campus being built and an interview with Dr Hugh Pollard on his vision and aspiration for the ‘college on the hill’.
Many people chose to stay on campus in the Willie Tom Halls of Residence, some even remembering the exact rooms they had stayed in nearly 50 years earlier. To say it was an experience for them is probably an understatement!
Professor Peter Strike, Vice Chancellor, formally welcomed our guests onto campus and then it was straight into the 1960’s themed quiz, prepared by David and Nikki. We think there may have been some duplicitous activity going on but it was all taken in good spirit and the judge’s decision was final after all.
We were then joined by some of our current student ambassadors who took great delight in showing our guests around the campus and talking with them about their lives as students today. Our last activity of the afternoon was for everyone to congregate outside College Main to recreate the class photo originally taken nearly five decades earlier.
The Learning Gateway provided the venue for the evening’s entertainment which started with a drinks reception. Andrew McFadyen kindly gave a speech of thanks to everyone for attending and to us for making it happen. After a 3-course dinner there followed a 60’s disco kindly provided by DJ, Alan Sandham, himself a former staff member of S Martins, with dancing until the early hours.
Day two dawned bright and sunny, reflecting the warmth of the experience that everyone was enjoying. We’d organised a Service of Reunion and Remembrance in the Campus Chapel, led by Reverend Alex Logan – and YES, the Bratby painting was on display for all to see. One of our Faculty Deans, the Chair of our Board of Directors and Nikki Wolstenholme kindly delivered readings and lessons with the hymn ‘Turn Back, O’ Man’ performed by staff and students of the university’s Performing Arts department.
Light refreshments were served after the service before we said our farewells as people departed on a variety of activities, including a local history walk, a visit to Lancaster Castle and a walk in the Lakes round Rydal and Grasmere led by Andrew and David.
I hope we are right in saying that the event was a tremendous success! We were even lucky with the weather, with beautiful hot sunshine for the whole two days! Wherever we looked there were tears (happy ones!) and laughter and lots of catching up, reminiscing and chatting. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and we were delighted to receive some excellent feedback.
The Alumni team had a great time and it was incredible to finally meet everyone after corresponding in the preceding months and hearing all the stories of student life in the 1960s. Here are a few snippets from thank you letters and emails we received.
“Thank you so much arranging such a wonderful event. For many of us it was a very emotional two days with so many memories about such a significant and exciting part of our lives.”
"A big thank you for your work in organising the 50 year reunion, even down to arranging for the sun to shine!! Seriously, the whole event was excellent."
"I have rarely attended a better organised event, it was really superb and a wonderful trip down memory lane. Thank you very much."
"I had been looking forward to this for such a long time and it exceeded my expectations. It was wonderful and I would like to thank everyone in the organisations."