As is evident from so many accounts of ‘Women at St Edmund’s’, there are many ways that lead to the College… The beginning of my connection to St Edmund’s is via the Chapel, and goes back to the mid 1990s, when I was reading for a second degree, subsequently followed by a PhD, in History of Art at Lucy Cavendish – though the full credit for discovering the Chapel at St Edmund’s must actually go to my husband. We started attending with our children and were impressed by the kindness of the then-Dean (Michael Robson) and the friendly welcome of the congregation, so we became regulars there on a Sunday. My academic connection with the College however began in earnest in 2001, first as a Director of Studies, then as a Senior Member, and eventually as a Fellow in 2006. I have now retired, and have become Fellow Emerita, which means ‘Fellow honourably discharged from duties’. But I like a busy life!
My duties at St Edmund’s (as a tutor, DoS and serving on loads of committees) were combined with and complementary to my other activities for the University. In addition to research and publications on Anglo-Saxon numismatics, and an academic role as affiliated lecturer in Early Medieval Art (as well as DoS at four other Colleges), I was single-handedly in charge of the professional development of all newly-appointed lecturers on probation across the University. This was a role I totally enjoyed, as I got to meet and advise some truly amazing people, some of whom remain firm friends to date. Together with my experience of Fellowship at St Edmund’s, it gave me a 360-degree perspective of what was happening round the University. Although nobody can ever claim to understand Cambridge, I learnt so much through my interactions with undergraduates and graduate students, supervisors, lecturers, Faculty administrators, Senior Tutors, Pro Vice-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors (I served under three VCs)… A very intensive life, but a very happy one: I reckon I had somebody saying ‘thank you’ to me every single day of my working life – beat that!
Most of all, I really relished the roles of Tutor and of DoS. I am still in touch with many of my past students, and I am very proud not just for their academic results, but of what they managed to achieve in spite of what life may have thrown at them… This has always been the true ethos of the College, and something I have been mindful to uphold. Art History is a tiny subject across the University, so we have not had that many students – however, they were all uniquely interesting. I shall not mention names, but amongst them, the College can boast a quoted artist, a serious academic, a great sportsman (and model), and a notorious Instagram personality… Variety is the spice of life.
And then there were Sundays… and whilst for most people these equal a well-deserved pause, I often saw my students after Mass on a Sunday. It was a popular time- slot: it gave them time for a lie-in beforehand, there was no rushing off for lectures etc, and coffee was available in the CR… A quiet time to talk.
We live in interesting times (as the so-called Chinese curse says…), but ‘interesting’ is what we do best at Cambridge. Our community at St Edmund’s is a microcosm of the world out there. The rich Catholic heritage of the College is very important to me. I am a Catholic, a child of Vatican II, and bearing witness to my Faith inspires me and makes me who I am. Much of my academic research focuses on exploring aspects of belief, transformation and faith encounters as expressed in art, and these interests have informed what I hope have been attentive and respectful encounters supporting my students. Serving and contributing are important responsibilities that go with the privilege of being a Fellow – I have totally enjoyed my stint, and the opportunities to make a difference it has afforded.
In telling my story, I have mainly concentrated on the importance of personal interactions, because I am very much a ‘people person’: however, there is one ‘thing’ that I am inordinately proud of… I was the one behind the project of the new entrance to the Chapel, with the access ramp and the bench for St Edmund’s…a great enhancement to our College environment. As Emerita, I may now be ‘honourably discharged from duties’, but watch this space: I am still the Keeper of Art!