Meet the Development Director
Three question for Matthew Mellor, Pembroke’s Development Director.
How would you describe your role?
My team is primarily responsible for keeping in touch with our members and also, of course, for fundraising. The end game of all of this is to make the College a better environment in which to work, to be a student, and to be an academic. We all buy into that. I realise where my place is within that: to enable it. We don’t want to be a ‘fundraising College’ and we’re not. Last year we were second in the league tables academically, we’re one of the most sought after College for graduates as well as undergraduates, and that is testament to the health of the College. Our fundraising total wouldn’t tell us that.
However, we have been successful over the years and the whole Development Office team has got to take credit for that. I need to get better at telling them how much I appreciate everything that they do, because there really are some remarkable professionals in our team.
Mill Lane is our next big project, both as a building and as a symbolic epicentre of the future of education in Cambridge. It will not just be another building, but it will enable amazing things to happen and amazing people to come here at all levels. In general I find that big building projects are great, and exciting, – and they are in fact very important – but what is even more pleasing is when we are able to find financial support for a student who otherwise wouldn’t be able to be here.
Alongside all of this I act at the Steward – a role for which I quite literally wrote the job description. This involves taking care of dining arrangements, and creating lots and lots of seating plans. It is a really thankless job, but it is also fun in the way that you become part of the curiosity of the place. There are things I find myself saying that are utterly pompous and weird, that I would never usually say, but somehow they seem to come with the role.
I am also an undergraduate tutor. That’s something that I really enjoy and find fulfilling. It’s given me an insight into the way our students think and the way they see the College. My son is not very far off their age and it’s got me thinking about how I’d like him to behave – because as far as I can tell our students are model citizens.
What major changes have you seen during your time at Pembroke?
I came to Pembroke to help start the Development Office, and that in itself was a major change for the College. The office came into being in the summer of 1994 and I arrived in the November. Pembroke had done something that no other College had done, which was to make a development professional a Fellow. Before that point, the idea of getting ‘a man or woman in a suit’ into the fellowship was unheard of.
Pembroke’s first Development Director was my predecessor, Howard Raingold. He had set up offices at LSE and Lincoln College in Oxford, so we weren’t just making it up as we went along. We launched our first campaign, in 1994 which included as one of its aims the building of Foundress Court. In professional terms, if you’ve never done fundraising before a campaign can be the ideal way of kicking off something sustainable. Since then all of the other College have set up Development Officers so now we are part of a Cambridge-wide network.
What do you think makes Pembroke unique?
Having been chair of several development groups I sometimes wonder if all the colleges aren’t really the same, just with different names. Reflecting on it more though, I think there actually are things each individual college does to make itself distinctive and the things that Pembroke does fit well with me.
One of those is the very acute care of each individual student, which includes treating them as grown-ups. The thing that I am always remembering about my first impression of Pembroke back in 1994 is the friendliness of the student body towards the fellowship and the way they seemed to talk on a level playing field to each other. That was so very different from my time in Oxford.
People also just really love being here. The students are proud to be here and so that makes them want to do more things that make them proud to be here. Academics like being here. Bedders and gardeners and staff in other departments choose to stay here for years or even decades. I think that really says something about the culture of the College.
I also like the way that although Pembroke is very mindful of its tradition and ethos, as an organisation it is willing to try new things. Ever since I arrived, that creative spirit has been really strong. I like to think that, partly because of that, we are a College that contributes to the University in lots of different ways. I encourage the staff in my team to become leaders in their own fields and then to share that expertise. We want to make a contribution outside our own parochial interests.
For more information on Pembroke’s Development Office, see the College website.