I hope everyone has had a good break and is in great form for the return to College. This is the start of my third year as Principal and I look forward to welcoming all our new graduate and undergrads. Everyone is special here and we hope all of the new folks will settle in quickly and call it home.
As I write the finishing touches are being made to the spiral staircase between new Reading Room in Cloisters and the main Library above. We again thanks our generous funders. Work has already started to prepare for expansion of Lecture Room 11 in 2018-19 thanks to the gift of the Amersi Foundation. This should be a brilliant year for Brasenose. We all look forward to it.
A particular welcome goes out to our new Fellow in Ancient Philosophy who joins from Princeton, Simon Shogry (his personal website is worth a view), and our new Chaplain Rev Julia Baldwin who joins from Canterbury.
College was busy throughout the summer – Open Days, hosting some UNIQ summer school students, and conference business, that brings in important income.
We were delighted with the exam results this year which place us seventh in the Norrington Tables for the second year running (the latter being the Interim Table). This is a great achievement for students and their tutors. It may be linked with the fact that Oxford has been declared the world’s greatest university.
I also congratulate our alumnus Peter Jackson on being appointed to the Court of Appeal and our Golding Senior Fellow Professor Charles Hulme who has been appointed FBA.
In August Suzanne and I visited several alumni over the summer in Italy and France. In September, we accompanied by James Fletcher from the Development Office visited Los Angeles and San Francisco. It was my first time on the West Coast of the USA. Los Angeles is huge, so big that on one day we spent five and a half hours in the car just going between various alumni within the City. It is clear that not many people walk in LA; we walked around the city at night and people thought we were eccentric English folk (the pavements or sidewalks as they call them were empty). Amongst other fascinating people, we caught up with Owain Yeoman, an actor from Wales who normally plays parts with a US accent; he was a student of Sos Eltis and did creative writing with her husband Mark Haddon, whose Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is on in both LA and San Francisco at present. We also met Lionel Wigram who is a producer of the last five Harry Potter films.
San Francisco appears much more like a European city. Again we had seven one-to-one meetings with alumni. We also had a fantastic party hosted by Kurt Beyer in a bar/restaurant he part owns called Shroders (which I recommend any visitors to San Francisco to visit). The music and conversations in the main bar were so loud with Friday night revellers (of course not Brasenose folk!) that it drowned out my customary State of the Nation address, which was probably a relief to those attending.
The most extraordinary coincidences occurred on the trip. I met a member of our barristers chambers by chance at the Getty Museum. Then on the last night in San Francisco I had been accosted in the street by a drug addict so that when someone else came up to me about five minutes later on my walk I was not too keen to engage. He, however, said, “Are you not the Principal of Brasenose?” Since I had my Brasenose badge on, I could hardly say no. He was Thomas Christiansen, a post grad in International Politics whom I had sat next to at my first graduate dinner two years ago. He now works in San Francisco for McKinsey.
It was a great trip. I loved the informality and the positive vibes of the West Coast and the idea that if you fail in one venture you just try another. It was also clear that the vibrancy of the tech business is powered by research coming out of the two big Bay Area Universities, Stanford and Berkeley. As always we hope that our visits will serve as a catalyst for alumni living out here to meet together regularly. I am sure that we will visit again in the near future.
I hope that many of you tuned into the TV choir competition Pitch Battle on 15 July on BBC. One of the contestants was Oxford Alternotives a capella group (who also performed in Edinburgh for the Festival). We have two students in it Hiba Abuelgasim and Daniele Zurbruegg and they are quite brilliant.