50 years have passed since I left St Edmund’s for the first time. My earliest memory is when I was appointed as secretary to the Master, Canon Sweeney, in October 1967.
My introduction to St Edmund’s was wonderfully informal. I was sitting at home one morning, in a Cambridgeshire village, listening to my mother and her friend Diana, chatting over coffee. Diana had been working as the college secretary and due to her husband’s promotion, she would soon be leaving. When she told the Bursar he simply said “Diana, I can’t face advertising and recruitment, simply find someone” at which point, she looked across at me and said; “you’ll do”!
One reason I was at home that morning was because my mother didn’t approve of education, she disliked teachers and at every opportunity she kept me at home. My school report actually states: “Jane would do well if she was allowed to attend”. However, I was sent to ballet lessons, danced several times a week and at the age of 16 my ballet mistress asked me to become her Assistant Ballet teacher; she saw potential in me and I leapt at the chance. To my father’s fury and my mother’s delight I left school.
Diana introduced me to David Wallace, the Bursar and I started work the very next day. I became The Master’s Secretary at 17 years of age, in St Edmund’s House and ran the college office on 2 mornings a week until 1970. There were 40 students, many catholic priests, who were looked after by an Order of German Nuns led by Sister Oswaldo. They did all the cooking, cleaning and laundry; students had to tick a box to sign up for Lunch &/or Dinner each day and often forgot. Sister Irmengarda once said to me: “These men, they are so brilliant, they are stupid!”
Being a ballet teacher was a part-time job, between 3pm-7pm which meant the college job fitted in very well. It was such fun; and with my dancing skillsI took part in the End of Year Revues, once dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in a sketch they called “Saturday Night at The Duck Pond”. Mike Smith (Boxing Blue), Bernard Buckley (boat club founder) Mike Casey and other students dressed up as swans, with white swimming caps and blackened noses, pranced around while I floated about on pointe shoes and tutu. We ended up behind the sofa throwing a handful of feathers from an old pillow…… the nuns were most upset!
Almost twenty years later I was back! As a single parent, with a young family to support. I found a post in St Edmund’s, took my CV round to meet the Bursar (a different one to 20 years earlier) and after a short discussion he offered me the job by saying “I don’t really need to interview you – you know it already”. Nothing had changed, I sat down to the same typewriter, shelving, storage in exactly the same office I’d left two decades earlier.
A year later I left once more and held an administrative role in the Engineering Department for 22 years until retirement.
After leaving for the second time, the draw of St Edmund’s meant I’d return for dinners and one evening I met Paul Luzio – in the college bar – and when he bought me a drink, I knew we had plenty to talk about! That was in 1990 and we were married in 1992.
For the third time I was closely associated with St Edmund’s. Paul’s academic career advanced and he was elected as Master of St Edmund’s in 2004. Together, we made many friends amongst students, Fellows and staff, we travelled far and wide, meeting alumni from each era and shared the pleasure of contributing to the family friendly welcome of St Edmund’s.
It was a real honour for me when, after Paul’s retirement in 2014 I was formally admitted as a Senior Member of St Edmund’s exactly 47 years to the day that I first started working for Canon Sweeney!
Now, I enjoy coming to many events in the college and I still have a role in the University as Director of Newcomers & Visiting Scholars, in which I continue to welcome many members of the University and their partners and families. https://www.nvs.admin.cam.ac.uk