Saturday 26th March 2022
Words given by Ann Kentfield (1961, Literae Humaniores).
Thank you so much for having us today for our postponed 60 years on Gaudy – after all the restrictions of the last two years, it’s an especially welcome opportunity to come back to where we began our time at LMH in 1961 and to meet up again as we join with the cohort of 1971. I know that health and various reasons have made it too difficult for some people to be able to come – but I know, also, that they are certainly with us in spirit.
Inevitably by now there are some sad gaps among us, made all the more poignant here in this special place – where we worked and laughed and on occasion cried together and our friendships began – where companionship was offered in essay crises, or having to tiptoe to push a Greek prose under the tutor’s door before midnight, where kind help was given in dilemmas sartorial and cosmetic, and where we exchanged views and ideas about everything under the sun. Above all, this was where we shared the joyous privilege of delving into chosen areas of study under gifted and sometimes legendary guides, who fostered in us the love of learning – and the tools to pursue it – gifts that last a lifetime.
Yet that sense and experience of place itself does have its resonances: Oxford of course as a whole – and as well as the dreaming spires, my own memories of, say, our lectures range from the imposing portrait-hung hall of New College to what must once have been the cellars in Exeter – and our own College in particular – and I must say how wonderful a difference the most recent phase of building has made. You who are resident have become pretty used to it, I expect – but to an eye less frequently here the true welcoming ethos of LMH is so much more apparent now, as one comes down Norham Gardens – and so much more in tune with the aspect we knew of the dome and the Bear Pit front door.
What an inspired delight, too, to make the flower-filled meadow quad! But then the garden-grounds and the riverside of LMH have always been some of our really appreciated – indeed I think unique – assets. Much has been made these days of the therapeutic effects of nature – especially in the lockdowns – but such benefits have always been valued. I feel sure that in the sites the Greeks favoured for their healing Asclepius shrines – nearly always in quiet valleys or by the sea – the proximity of the natural world played its part in restoration for the unwell and burdened. I’m reminded of what Gustav Mahler once said:” With the coming of spring, I am calm again”. To be able to wander and to enjoy LMH’s outdoors is truly restoring at any season.
We have all by now lived a lot of life since we were here in the 60’s, and in a myriad of contexts – but the inspiration, the resources and the encouragement LMH gave us are, I guess, constant for all of us. The LMH we knew has changed in some ways: people-wise – taking in men after the decision back in 1978, and more recently forging ahead in the foundation year scheme – as well as in bricks and mortar – just as our LMH had changed from times before us. A colleague from my teaching days would recount how in her time they used to save their coal allowances to pool for a decently warm fire in the winter. But it seems to me that the heart of LMH: love and value for scholarship, the appreciation of others, as well as the finding of confidence in ourselves, the encouragement to think outside the box, the enthusiasm to embark on new areas at any age, the fruitfulness of cooperation and the warmth of friendship – the place for head and home fostered by Miss Wordsworth from the beginning – all these things, given to us, have remained to flourish now as ever. May they do so long into the future!
LMH thank you!