10th December 2022
Dear Alumni and Friends,
Greetings from 6 Fyfield Road. During my first term as Principal, it has been a huge pleasure to meet so many members of College, including our 115 undergraduate freshers whom Fiona and I hosted at the Lodgings, and over 400 alumni at a score of events in Oxford and London. The dominant theme of these conversations can be captured in one short sentence: LMH is a special place. Not only is it a leader in increasing access to talented students from under-represented backgrounds, but the College has created a supportive, friendly and inclusive academic community deeply appreciated by all its members, from an undergraduate finding their way through Deneke in their first term to a staff member with over twenty years’ experience. It is a privilege for me to represent such a distinctive and compelling College.
As I begin my tenure here, I recognise that Principal is an unusual role with a wide range of responsibilities. To learn more, I consulted the archives from the early 1900s: an LMH undergraduate “may not boat with men (other than her brother) without a chaperone approved by the Principal.” Whilst I cannot speak to my ability to approve chaperones, I do see clear priorities as Principal: to strengthen the core academic mission of the College; to champion the academic aspirations of our Fellows and students; to attract the finest scholars regardless of circumstance; and to help provide the resources, support and community so that all members of College – students, Fellows and staff – can flourish.
I recognise that there are challenges ahead. As you know, LMH is at a financial disadvantage relative to other Oxford colleges. But we are energetic, innovative and courageous, dedicated to providing a transformative tutorial education to our undergraduates, the power of which you know better than anyone. We are committed to doing what we can to help our students, staff and Fellows during the cost-of-living crisis that faces the UK. LMH has extraordinary assets beyond the financial: a compelling identity of inclusiveness, diversity and community; a pioneering history committed to opening up education and career possibilities to the previously excluded; and the goodwill and support of its extensive and accomplished alumni body.
James McCarthy, a former faculty colleague, who was one of the first scientists to warn of warming oceans, was the head of an undergraduate house at Harvard. An expert on climate change, he was often asked whether he was hopeful for the future. He would reply: “I live with 400 students. They inspire me. I am always optimistic.” I agree with Jim. The 400 undergraduates – plus graduates – with whom I live at LMH inspire me. I am optimistic for the future of the College.
I look forward to welcoming you back to LMH to one of our events in 2023, and wish you and your family all the best for Christmas and the New Year.
Professor Stephen Blyth, Principal