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Master's Michaelmas 2018 Message to Members

It is hard to believe that it is already December. Our weary undergraduates may have left for the Christmas break but our postgraduate students are still hard at work and our Fellows have headed straight into the Admissions season. This year Pembroke received over 888 applications for 135 places. 627 of these have been invited for interview, 589 at Pembroke, the rest overseas.

There have been a number of truly noteworthy moments this term, but the one I recall most vividly was the centenary of the Armistice. As you may be aware, in 2014 the College decided to commemorate the 308 alumni and College staff who died in World War I by planting a named cross on the centenary of each man’s death in raised beds in the Hitcham Cloisters. These were men who came from as far away as India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and as close as Walnut Street Avenue, less than 400 metres from the Boathouse, but who made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries.

Michael Kuczynski, with the help of our archivist, Jayne Ringrose, has spent the last five years researching the men named on the war memorial. We plan to make the document accessible to all when he has completed it. Additionally, Michael has also been able to trace the names of at least six Pembroke men who fought (and we believe in one or two cases died) for the Central Powers. These men’s names were never included on the war memorial and so the College made the decision to add a bronze plaque to them on the war memorial.

On 11th November, Remembrance Sunday, around 200 people gathered to watch the dedication of the plaque, the marking of the two-minute silence and the laying of a wreath by Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer (1985). It was followed by a Commemoration in Chapel, where the poppy crosses were handed out to each member of the congregation, and the names of the fallen were read out. The Pembroke Choir and the newly-formed Pembroke Girls’ Choir sang quite beautifully throughout the occasion, which included a specially commissioned piece, Remember by Owain Park.

Unfortunately, one person missing that day was Dr Bill Grimstone, who passed away in late August after battling a long-term illness. Bill came up to Pembroke to read Natural Sciences in 1952 and later became a Fellow in Zoology in 1958. He was a most diligent and influential member of the College, holding a number of official posts during his time.  However, I would suggest that his most important undertaking was as the College’s unofficial historian.  Bill was a regular contributor of articles to the Gazette and also published a number of books, including Building Pembroke Chapel 2009 and in 2013, Pembroke Portraits. A well-run and happy college is the result of extraordinary voluntary contributions by students, staff and Fellows going beyond the normal expectations of their roles: Bill was an exemplar among many.

As beautiful as our buildings are, Bill would have been the first to agree that it is people who make Pembroke. Each year brings new Fellows together with the freshers. They come from around the world, cover a range of subjects and are at different stages of their career. This makes for a varied and stimulating mix of minds and personalities which enhances the breadth and depth of the intellectual life of Pembroke.

We wished goodbye over the summer to Professor Tim Bussey (Neuroscience), Dr Henning Grunwald (German History), Dr Ambrogio Camozzi Pistoja (Italian) and Dr Emily Jones (History), who went on to new roles. Professor Charles Melville and Professor Jan Maciejowski retired, but I'm pleased to say are still playing an active life in the College.  We also welcomed eight new Fellows – Dr Assef Ashraf (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies), Dr Mark Halliday (Neuroscience), Professor Mike Hulme (Geography), Dr Johannes Kromdijk (Plant Sciences), Dr Jessica Maratsos (Italian Art History), Dr Amanda Prorok (Computer Science), Dr Matthew Tointon (Mathematics) and Ms Chika Tonooka (History).

It is rare that I come away from an encounter with one of our Fellows without learning something new. I am pleased that events such as the Pembroke Soirées are enabling alumni to learn more about our Fellows’ research too. Last month we held an event which covered topics as diverse as robotic multi-vehicle co-ordination, “maternal forewarning” in insects, and the future of the Himalayas. I would also urge alumni to watch the videos where Fellows talk about their research on our YouTube channel.

The College also welcomes visiting scholars for all or part of the year, who in turn add an extra dimension to the community. In October we announced that creation of the Briena Staunton Visiting Fellow in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin. Endowed by Professor James Meaney in honour of his aunt, this means that on an alternating basis, a leading international writer will spend a month writing, and supporting students in either Dublin or Cambridge.  This year’s Visiting Fellow is novelist Adam Mars-Jones, who will spend March 2019 in Dublin. After the announcement Mr Mars-Jones delivered a masterclass in writing alongside Richard Beard (1985) – an extraordinary opportunity for our students.

One other change you may already have noticed is the new College website. It is ever more important to have a modern and responsive website as our window to the world. One of the new undergraduates who came to the Master’s Lodge for Freshers’ drinks mentioned that the old website almost put them off from applying. It has to cater for a number of users from teenage prospective undergraduates, to International Programmes applicants, to staff and students as well as to our world-wise alumni.  I am reliably informed that we have changed from a WordPress site to a Drupal site. The web editors will continue to tweak it as there are still issues to iron out, but I hope you like the clean new look and, as ever, constructive feedback is always appreciated.

Finally, please keep an eye out for the College’s festive seasonal message which will be sent to Members in the week before Christmas.

Warmest wishes,

Chris Smith

Master of Pembroke