Master’s Email – Summer 2018

Like most of the UK, Pembroke has been bathed in glorious sunshine for the past two months. This unexpectedly lengthy period of fine weather has raised the spirits of most, but proved a challenge for our Head Gardener, Nick Firman, and his team. (As many of you will already know, Nick has been working in the gardens of Pembroke for an astonishing 53 years!) They have done sterling work nurturing the gardens in spite of the lack of rain and the marquees that are put up and taken down on our lawns at this time of year for May Week, the June Event, Open Days and graduation ceremonies.

IMG_2225 (parched lawn resized)

Alas, no previously hidden archaeological outlines have appeared in the College grounds as they have on Jesus Green and King’s College, although this may be a relief for Nick!

The fine weather obviously inspired our students during their Tripos exams, with 35% of Pembroke students achieving Firsts this year, up from 29% last year. There were some particularly outstanding individual results. The top First in Part II Classics was awarded to a Pembroke student who had come up to Cambridge to take the four year Classics course, which entails learning both Latin and Greek from scratch. A Pembroke student also took the top First in Part IIA Engineering, by a wide margin. All told, our results were outstanding, and put us amongst the very top performing Colleges.

It is heartening to see hard work rewarded but being a student at Pembroke is of course about much more than just results. At the welcome introduction I give each year at matriculation dinner, I tell all our new students that, yes, they are here to work hard and get a good degree, but they are also here to make friends and have fun, and throw themselves into the fullest possible life here.

Most students take this on board and make time to refresh their minds away from their books and laptops. This Easter Term saw another successful June Event, Nightfall, with the College temporarily (thankfully) transformed into a “vibrant dystopian cityscape”. In the May Bumps, the Men’s VIII moved up to third on the river, while the women’s VIII rose three places and are poised for a return to the top half of the 1st Division.

The choir continues to go from strength to strength and is now on a wonderfully successful long vacation tour of Rome. The Director of Music, Anna Lapwood, also arranged ‘Play Like A Girl‘, a 24-hour performance of the complete organ works of J S Bach played on the College organ by 22 female organists.

The Pembroke Players have been busy rehearsing the three shows they will be taking to the Edinburgh Festival next month. I was delighted to host Jonathan Lynn (1961) at the Master’s Lodge where he talked about his life in acting and screenwriting with some of our students and members of the Players.

I am also very pleased to report that we have selected the first recipient of the Jo Cox PhD Studentship for refugee studies, Matt Mahmoudi (2016). For his PhD, Matt is looking at how urban technologies intended to support diaspora communities may actually perpetuate marginalisation and inequality among refugees and migrants. Matt has been very involved in College life and his department during his time at Cambridge. He helped set up the Declarations podcast which is run out of the University’s Centre of Governance & Human Rights and successfully crowdfunded money to build an educational platform to address gaps in citizenship and political education in the UK and elsewhere, called The State of Things.

This year the Fellowship has also welcomed a Syrian refugee scholar in Pembroke. The continuing threat to his family in Syria means I cannot name him, but it has been an honour to host him in our College community. We hope to be able to help further refugee academics in future and are seeking to raise funds for a refugee student.

I am pleased to report that seven Pembroke Fellows have been promoted within the University. Polly Blakesley and Lauren Kassell have been elevated to professorships, while our Senior Tutor, Dan Tucker, has been promoted to Reader.

Finally, I am pleased to note that in June the College gave a warm welcome to Dagmar Dolby, widow of Ray, and held a ceremony to admit her as our first Foundress’ Fellow. Her visit gave us the opportunity to show her the progress that is being made with the Mill Lane redevelopment, which she, Ray and the Dolby family have so generously enabled us to embark on. As the recent campaign e-newsletter explained, we have started to take ownership of the buildings on Trumpington Street including Emmanuel Church (the United Reform Church). We are in the final stages of agreeing detailed designs, which will be submitted for detailed planning permission at the end of October. When that happens we will want to share the plans and designs with you all, and keep you regularly updated on progress.

With best wishes,

Chris Smith
Master of Pembroke

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