‘What does StEds mean to you?’ Well, that is not an easy question to answer. It has been my college for over thirty years and I have many, many happy memories. When I first came to Cambridge University from London University, it felt like an alien place, where women were tolerated and my PhD from London was not recognised. Fortunately, I was awarded a Research Fellowship at New Hall (now Murray Edwards) and this enabled me to find a few friends. For a while, as a post-doc at DAMTP, I was out in the wilderness, until in 1987, I was offered a Fellowship at St Edmund’s College. It is not an exaggeration to say that this completely changed my life and my perception of Cambridge University. I was welcomed, valued and made lifelong friends, like Paul Luzio, who joined the college on the same day as I did.  Not only was I welcomed, but so was my husband, John, and my children, Liz and Clare. They all have fond memories of visiting college, meeting other Fellows and students.

Photo Credits: Henry Kenyon

Almost straight away, I became a tutor and served under several Masters and Senior Tutors. I had responsibility for students (undergraduates and post-graduates) on my tutorial side. Some came from the UK, but many came from other countries, far, far away. It was a great pleasure for me to get to know them, welcome them, invite them to my home. I still keep in touch with some of them, either via social media, or even better meeting them when they visit Cambridge. It was such a pleasure to reconnect with Arabinda Mitra recently. He now holds a high position in Indian Science, but still remembers fondly his days studying at StEds. I visit India often, it is a special place for me. Others, like Flavio Comim, returned to StEds as a Fellow and Director of Studies in Economics. James Chau, a former student, now holds a high position in the Chinese media. Misty Jenkins, formerly a fellow at StEds, now runs her own very successful research group in Australia. What an honour to know so many wonderful and talented people. There are many others I could name all across the world. Our paths have crossed at StEds and the times we spent together there are precious. 

Flavio Comim, Helen Mason and Matthew Bullock at the Garden Party

From 2006-2011, I became Senior Tutor. It is not an easy job to undertake, dealing with students’ problems, financial difficulties, bereavements, academic stresses and relationship break-ups. I was of course supported by those around me, Paul Luzio, then Master, Michael Robson (then Dean), the tutors and the tutorial administrative team. Of course, the rewards were immense, especially attending the Graduation ceremonies and knowing how much pain some students had gone through to get there. Also, there have been many other occasions to enjoy, just meeting people at dinners, family lunches, discussions, finding out about other cultures and academic disciplines, and of course the wonderful StEds Garden Parties. The college Chapel has of course also played a key role in college life.

Sadness also struck hard with the sudden death of several Fellows – the then Senior Tutor, Michael Murphy and the all too early passing of Terry McLaughlin. He was the life and soul of StEds, an ever present welcoming smile for fellows and students like. He left a hole that no-one else can fill, but his spirit still lives on at StEds. We have had some real characters at StEds, one of whom was Dido Davies, a Fellow who broke the mould, she was unique. She also published some rather interesting books! She died far too young, and we miss her lively presence. 

How can I end these reminiscences without a mention of the Fellows’ panto. How many happy hours have we spent rehearsing and performing, Paul in his favourite ‘Chicken Suit’ imitating a Chicken Kiev. It is good sometimes to laugh at ourselves. I have been known to wear a disguise myself – a wig, to the extent that even my husband, John, did not recognise me and shouted out ‘Is that my wife?’.

Terry McLaughlin, Helen Mason, Sorrel Langley-Hobbs, Judith Bunbury, Paul Luzio, Michael Robson at the Fellow’s Panto

I could continue on and on, and I have only covered a part of my life. In addition, I have run a solar research group at DAMTP, been DoS in maths, carried out a lot of outreach work, especially with schools, as well as caring for my family, and I now even have a granddaughter. Being made a Life Fellow at StEds was a great honour, and I am proud that my photo portrait now hangs in the Garden Room.

I have had rewards and awards, but most of all I treasure the friendships I have made, especially at StEds. So, what of the role of women? Well, at StEds, I was always treated as an equal, my views were valued, I was given responsibilities, I was supported by my colleagues through difficult times. StEds has made all the difference to my life. My hope is that as StEds grows in size, it continues to nurture all its members, fellows and students, and maintains what is really important, that is strong, abiding friendships.

Like many others, I’m really pleased to welcome the first female Master to StEds, Catherine Arnold.