Wolfson from the air

Our History

For a Cambridge College, a short but rich history

From our beginnings as University College in 1965 with just six postgraduate students, we have gone from strength to strength, celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2015 as a thriving centre for education, learning and research.

Wolfson from the air

Our History

Wolfson timeline

1965 University College was founded by the University of Cambridge, as a graduate college, admitting both women and men as students and Fellows. John Morrison was appointed President and the list of 28 Founding Fellows published in the Reporter on 13 October.

1966 Bredon House was adapted for use by the College, and an appeal was started to raise funds for new buildings. Suzanne Cory became the first student at the College. She graduated in 1970, and went on to become a distinguished Molecular Biologist.

1967 The YMCA Industrial Course was held at University College for the first time.

1968 A temporary extension to Bredon House provided a Dining Room and Council Room. The College competed in the May Bumps for the first time, fielding a mixed crew – a first for Cambridge.

1969 The College now had about 150 students and four buildings, including Selwyn Gardens House and Norton House.

1970 A further temporary extension to Bredon House provided a Club Room.

1972 The fundraising campaign for new buildings had now raised £100,000 from the Fairleigh S. Dickinson Foundation, £50,000 from the Gulbenkian Foundation, and £2m from the Wolfson Foundation. Work started on the first permanent residential building.

1973 On 1 January, University College was officially renamed Wolfson College, in recognition of the generosity of the Wolfson Foundation. ‘Ring True’ was coined as the College motto; a reference to the hand bell on the Wolfson arms, which was adopted in the College arms.

The College began to admit mature undergraduates (over 25s).

1974 Two buildings at the front of the College were completed - residential blocks A and B, and the original Library (now the Jack King Building).

1975 Wolfson College had secured its own financial position, so financial support from the University ended, as planned, after ten years. The formal Grant of Arms to the College was made.

1976 The Main Building and Eastern residential block came into use, marking the completion of the initial building programme.

1977 The College’s Royal Charter and new Statutes came into effect on 1 January.

On 9 November, Wolfson College was formally opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by HRH Duke of Edinburgh (Chancellor of the University and Visitor of the College). The College now had 220 students, 72 Fellows, and 58 Senior Members.

1978 The College took on full responsibility for the YMCA Industrial Course, and it became the Wolfson Course and Programme.

1979 Founding Bursar Jack King retired and became the first Director of the Wolfson Course.

1980 David Williams became the 2nd President of the College.

1981 The College Mural was installed over the main staircase.

1982 The Wolfson Press Fellowships Programme began.

1983 The College acquired 28 Selwyn Gardens and renamed it Plommer House, in memory of founding fellow Hugh Plommer.

1988 The College acquired 78 Barton Road, which had been the home of the antarctic explorer Sir Vivian Fuchs, and is now named after him.

1990 The Lee Seng Tee Hall and Betty Wu Lee Garden were opened.

1992 Toda House was opened.

1993 John Tusa became the 3rd President of the College. The new Boathouse (shared with Corpus Christi, Sydney Sussex and Girton colleges) was opened.

1994 Gordon Johnson became the 4th President of the College. The Lee Seng Tee Library was opened.

1995 On its 30th anniversary, the College had 500 students, 106 Fellows, 24 Emeritus Fellows, 70 Senior Members, and 24 Honorary Fellows.

1997 The Chancellor, the Duke of Edinburgh, unveiled a plaque to mark the opening of the first phase of the Western Field Building.

1998 The second phase of the Western Field Building was completed.

2003 Our 1000th PhD student graduated.

2004 The Chancellor’s Centre was opened by The Chancellor, the Duke of Edinburgh. The newly renovated statue of another Chancellor, Prince Albert, was installed in the foyer.

2005 The Family Flats were completed. The 40th Anniversary mural by Peter Mennim (son of the College’s architect, Michael Mennim) was unveiled.

2010 Richard Evans became the 5th President of the College. 42 Barton Road was renamed Chadwick House, in honour of Owen Chadwick, who had chaired the Trustees of University College.

2011 The College gardens were opened to the public under the National Gardens Scheme. The Old Library Building was renamed the Jack King Building in honour of our first Bursar.

2012 Barton House (2 Barton Close) was refurbished thanks to a grant of £100k from the Wolfson Foundation, and opened as student accommodation.

2013 HE Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, Lord and Baron of Abernethy, GCMLJ, FRSA was elected as the College’s first Bredon Fellow.

2015 At the start of its 50th anniversary year, the College had about 650 full-time students and about 200 part-time students, 123 Fellows, 79 Emeritus Fellows, 22 Visiting Fellows, 33 Honorary Fellows, 1 Bredon Fellow, 83 Research Associates, and 300 Senior Members.

2017 Jane Clarke became the 6th President of the College. The 50th Anniversary Campaign came to a close, having raised £7.1 million in donations and pledges.

2018 The Club Room was refurbished with assistance from several architecture students.