Report of The Brasenose Alumni Society 2021

The Brasenose Alumni Society

A Society that helps its members maintain a strong connection with the College Community and each other

The Brasenose Alumni Society is Brasenose’s alumni association. 

All matriculated Brasenose members automatically become members of the Brasenose Alumni Society when they go down, together with certain former employees/academics of the College.  The term “alumni” in relation to the Society thus includes all these individuals. 

There is no membership fee.

This report covers the 12 months up to and including the Society’s AGM and Dinner in September 2021. It has been a year of development as the Committee has worked hard to make some important changes to the Society, particularly to make its role clearer to everyone.

Changes made to the Society this year

Following a recent and wide-ranging review by the Committee, three principal changes were made to the Society’s constitution at the AGM in September 2021:

  1. Name – to include the word “Alumni”
  2. Membership of the Society – to include certain (longer-serving) ex members of staff, as well as ex-students
  3. Membership of the Committee – to include a College Academic Representative.

A full copy of the Society’s Rules (its name, object/purpose, membership, Committee, general meetings etc) is set out here.


In addition, although the formal object of the Society, as set out in the Rules, cannot be changed, its activities can be refined in line with the object, from time to time.  In February 2021, the Committee resolved that the Society should undertake the following activities:

  • Foster closer relationships between BNC alumni and between alumni and the College Community (whether students, fellows, staff, the Alumni Office or the institution itself)
  • Hold a President’s Summer Party and Society Dinner annually
  • Professional networking with past and present members of the College
  • Social networking with past and present members of the College and encouraging special interest groups and societies
  • Encourage (but not finance) alumni attendance at or participation in College events
  • Bring less-connected alumni and their ideas and skills closer to the College.

There are two more activities listed: one involving merely the Committee and Year Reps; the other clarifying an activity that is no longer required.

Please see the Participation paragraph below if you would like to be involved in the Society’s activities.

Adoption of brand purpose statement

Finally, the Committee developed a “brand purpose” statement to emphasise the fact that the Society fosters relationships not only between alumni and the College but also between alumni:

“A Society that helps its members maintain a strong connection with the College Community and each other”.

Reasons for the changes

A year or so ago, a small sub-committee of the Committee was put together to look at clarifying the Society’s role, purpose and communication in order to ensure all alumni and students leaving Brasenose understand the Society’s role.  There had not been a recent in-depth review of its name, objects or activities despite many subsequent changes including, most importantly, the creation of an Alumni & Development office in 2008.

A programme was undertaken to better define the Society and College’s respective roles and activities. The sub-committee reviewed Oxford colleges’, corporates’ and other universities’ approaches including naming, activities, membership and purpose statements and then defined the Society’s purpose and activities as clearly as possible to ensure its name and function were clear and that the Committee contained an appropriate and inclusive mix of members.

1. Name

The Brasenose Society was established in 1937 and was named then. Over recent years, it has become clear that the Society’s name did not adequately describe what it is for and who is included. Other universities have alumni-run associations, as do companies, and the Committee concluded that this terminology is modern and normative.

2. Society membership to include ex staff

Until now there has been no comparable association for ex members of Brasenose staff, and the Committee felt strongly that they should be included in the Society, given their similar affection for the College and others associated with their time there. The Bursar will be in touch with those who are now eligible for membership; otherwise interested ex staff should contact him at [email protected].

3. Committee membership

The Committee felt that the Society should have a direct link with the primary focus of the College, its academic life, via an Academic Representative.  The roles of the Senior Tutor and Brazen Notes editor, previously ex officio Committee members, are no longer appropriate.

Society activities

As noted above, although the formal object of the Society cannot be changed, its activities can be refined from time to time.  The Committee felt that a formal articulation of this area would help develop understanding and focus energies.

Regular events arranged by the Society

The Society hosts two annual events in collaboration with the Development Office:

  • The President’s Summer Party, usually held in London
  • The annual Society Dinner, usually held in College during the University’s annual Alumni Weekend in September.

These are advertised on the College website as well as by email.  Both are somewhat constrained by numbers, so early application is advisable.

Report on 2020 – 21 events

As with last year, Society events have been somewhat shaped by COVID. 

The President’s Summer Party

For a second year, because of Covid, the President, Amanda Pullinger (1984), was unable to host the usual Summer Party.  Instead, the Society arranged a London South Bank Walk in July.  More than 30 alumni and members of College attended and, in spite of somewhat Biblical meteorological conditions, made the distance from Tower Hill tube on the North Bank, over Tower Bridge and along to the National Theatre, and thence into a number of convenient watering holes for refreshment and further chat.  David Bradbury (1981) and Drusilla Gabbott (1982) had prepared some very entertaining notes on the journey and nearby features of interest (largely Brasenose related).  All agreed that a walk was an excellent (and cheap!) format for catching up with College friends old and new.

Annual Society Dinner

The Society’s Annual Dinner in September was the College’s first physical event to be held post the Covid lockdowns. It was an early sell-out with great cross generational representation. Everybody was absolutely delighted to be back together in College and appreciative that the Society’s was the first event in Hall since the onset of Covid. John Bowers welcomed us and updated us on the College’s annexe expansion plans and the indomitable spirit undergraduates had shown in lockdown: particularly their commitment to as much socialising as was possible within rules prevailing at any time. Amanda Pullinger gave an inspiring, rousing and well received speech on the opportunities BNC had offered her, both as a woman and as a first-generation university attendee.

Monthly Drinks at the Oxford & Cambridge Club

The monthly drinks at the Oxford & Cambridge Club in London were suspended by Covid.  It is hoped that these, or something similar, will be able to be arranged before long.  Details will be conveyed via email. 

September 2021 AGM

This year the Society’s AGM was able to be held physically.  As noted above, the AGM passed resolutions to change the Society’s name, membership and Committee membership.

The following officers and Committee members were elected or confirmed at the AGM in September to run for the year from September 2021 to September 2022:

  • President: Rod Clayton (1986)
  • Vice President: Narmada Thiranagama (1996)
  • Committee members elected/re-elected:

David Bradbury (1981), David Clark (1970), Paul Dawson-Bowling (1962), Rosie Duthie (2016) Drusilla Gabbott (1982), Amanda Holland (1988), Jane Johnson (1987), Alexandra Marks (1977) and Sarah Williamson Atkins (1984)

  • (Committee members not requiring election/re-election:

Penny Andrews (1979) Secretary, Nigel Bird (1969) Treasurer; ex-Presidents Penny Gilbert (1978), Paul Silk (1970) and Amanda Pullinger (1984); ex Officio College members John Bowers Principal, Liz Miller Director of Development, Academic Representative)

The meeting noted that the Society’s funds remain in good health.

Participation in Society activities

The Brasenose Alumni Society is here to reflect the full diversity of our alumni community – ex students and ex staff. 

Following the changes introduced this year, and the inevitable hiatus caused by the pandemic, the Committee is keen to reinvigorate the Society and its activities: we would welcome alumni who have ideas for events (whether on a larger scale or smaller, more local ideas such as arranging a walk or curry evening for fellow alumni in the area) or networks, possibly including current students or College staff, to come forward, even if you have not been involved before. 

Otherwise, if you would like to be active in shaping the Society’s activities or in helping the College and its students, please do consider joining the Society’s Committee. If you think you might be interested in joining and would like to attend a Committee meeting as an observer, please let us know.

For further information and support, please contact the Society Secretary at [email protected].

The Society also runs the Year Rep scheme. For further details, please see here.