Wolfson in 50 words

Wolfson College reached its 50th Anniversary in 2015. Part of the celebrations included our ‘Wolfson in 50 words’ project created by its members. 

Homely Press Fellow digs, 42 Barton Road; Bill Kirkman; work, playing cricket; marvelling at a Sidgwick petal storm; music and Madeira; dining on ideas in Hall; May Ball, piper on ramparts at dawn. Kirkman: ‘Is there a book in your work?” Yes Bill, that and much more.  Thanks Wolfson.


University College (1968) gave us the ingredients for growing up: mixed sexes, multiculturalism, the free mixing of senior and junior members with no High Table or Senior Combination Room. It was highly democratic, sometimes bewilderingly so. For a boy from traditional English public school, it was just what I needed. Not that I ever grew up…

In 1993 my country, South Africa, was on the verge of major transformation and I needed to understand what it means. Coming to Wolfson at that time exposed me to people of many nations and backgrounds. Talking and discussing with them opened my mind to our own possibilities and I was able to go back and make great informed contribution to the transformation process.


Wolfson unites people from diverse backgrounds, through a variety of journeys, and helps them to fulfill their academic potential. It promotes engagement with those different from ourselves, from whom we learn and among whom we find a common purpose. And Wolfson’s members take those lessons with them into the world…

I remember the 'buzz' at University College in 1970 -1 when we became the first Cambridge College to change its name for several hundred years, in honour of our benefactors, the Wolfson family. Our first Bursar Jack King deserves special mention: he was a great fund-raiser and his efforts transformed our College.


Chronic Visiting Research Fellows are Becky and I, since the ‘nineties. We treasure so many welcoming friendships made with Senior Members. Beneficiaries of College talent on stage as well as eye-opening Humanities Seminar and luncheon presentations. Olé, Olé! Morrison House, Porters, Phil’s gardens, Formal Hall, and, oh, the UL!

Cosmoplitanism at its very best, with Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Venezuela, and Vietnam, all academically domiciled at Wolfson right now, in addition to sixty (60!) countries = more ''usual suspects'' in intellectual self-esteem.   
President Professor David G.T. Williams' Humanness, inspiring. 
The Porters' Lodge, welcoming. 
Professor William Brown and Director Bill Kirkman, guiding.
Researching and writing, and discussing.
In the Hall, eating.
In the Garden, reading.
At Music & Madeira, listening.
Bicycling, Punting. Tennis playing. Making lifelong friends.
Wolfson is the 'seed' of joy in academic exploration which has never left me since. The calm support which has encouraged mature reflection and confidence in the growth of my own voice. It still opens doors to intellectual engagement with all ages and backgrounds. 
Ringing True, forever.


Wolfson played Cupid! In 1981 I met my future husband at the Fresher's cheese and wine party. Next year we celebrate 30 years of marriage. We held the wedding in Graveley Parish Church but enjoyed the reception in what is now the Jack King Building on a sunny September Saturday. 

It is about an ecosystem where you plug into yourself and your intellectual interests, and discover your mind.   


Wolfson is a place of intellectual redemption to me. Having reached my mid-forties without a university degree, Wolfson embraced me as one of their own and allowed me to flourish academically as I never had before. 

With 82 countries currently present, Wolfson College has established itself as a most cosmopolitan, and communicative academic bridge builder between disciplines, cultures and generations. It provides illuminating intellectual pleasures like inspiring dialog between researchers and journalists from all over the world, as I experienced them intensely as a Press Fellow in 2012. 

  Fifty delegates from 45 countries on the 1971 Development Studies course - me the only Brit! Culturally cosmopolitan but comfortingly coherent, we watched Top of the Pops together every week on the College TV, and our multi-national May Boat got 3 bumps despite a huge-hatted lady cox. Worldwide friendships still flourish. 


A PG to do a PhD, then a JRF,
Combined with Mondays ‘doh re me’s.
Sat through Council, sat through dinners;
Talked to strangers and beginners;
made friends and felt at home.
A SM now–still embracing the collegial buzz–
I invigilate, do mentoring, sing and mingle.
Thanks to Wolfson.  

  The trip to Wolfson was intended to give me a break from my work as a newspaper sub-editor and to refocus my career. Wolfson turned out to give my career a second wind, thanks to wonderful Press Fellows and the inimitable Bill Kirkman.

The clock rings out in time
B minor bells
All of the stories that it tells
One continuous chime

The trees here must have blossomed
nearly fifty times before
Now I've come and seen them in a moment
of their lives
In three years, three worlds.


I came to Wolfson in 1989 to read law.  In 1987, my infant son had died in an horrific car accident in which my daughter was severely injured. Wolfson became a beacon of hope - a life raft amidst a sea of tragedy, a new beginning and my raison d’être.

Living in Wolfson, I could not only benefit from the University Library's lending service, but found myself in a beautiful and peaceful setting, surrounded by learned and friendly people from heterogeneous backgrounds. All this was catalytic for some revitalising new ideas within my own field of interest.


Wolfson College and the Nuffield Press Fellowship opened up a new world to me!!
Bill Kirkman, twinkle in the eye and warm understanding and infectious laugh!!


Wonderful opportunities: a privilege to be a student here.  Challenging, rewarding, outstanding.  

Wolfson was, quite simply, the start of the best of my life. Without it I would not have my wonderful husband and two beautiful children; my finest hour on stage; my love of rowing; my appreciation of after dinner conversation and my lifelong affinity with the inspirational city of Cambridge.

Wolfson (University College then!) in 1967 & 1968, the years of Protest at the Senate House! I came to Cambridge for the first time. Wolfson (consisting of Bredon House only) embraced me with its warmth, and we first five research students mingled freely with senior members of the University. Beautiful summer gardens, white lawns & frost in winter, wine, good food, events in the Old Combination Room. John Shaw laying down the College wine. Friendly helpful and humorous gardeners and Porters; they are present in my mind's eye even now...



What a year; studying in the Rutherford Laboratories – me! Studying under the world famous Elsie Widdowson – me!

Taking my mother to formal dinner at a Cambridge College and to evensong at King’s Chapel.

What an experience.  What a privilege.  What a start.

My time at Cambridge University between 2008-2014 reached new heights since entering Wolfson College to pursue my Master’s in Sustainability Leadership in 2011.   I began to appreciate Wolfson’s potential to be the most globally-networked College at Cambridge.  If strategically harnessed, Wolfson College has the opportunity for global impact.

  1973. Young Texan, far from home.  Successful admissions interview. Senior Tutor offered lift to station. There, on the passenger seat, sat cowboy boots! Befriended by a family during World War II flight training in New Mexico, he continued receiving gifts of cowboy boots some 30 years later. Wonderful Wolfson welcome.

My university background was Oxford. It had been a great experience, but the flavour was totally different from the Wolfson flavour. The change was something that I found stimulating and encouraging, a good reminder that the world was changing and that it was good to belong to an institution that reflected that change.

  There are institutions that people build and then there are institutions that build people.  And Wolfson College has been instrumental in building people for 50 years.  I clearly remember 6 October 2003, the day I arrived, enamoured by its openness, relaxed feel and warmth.  The days ahead only got better.

Wolfson provided me with lifelong memories: about long hours in the Library, Sunday walks to Grantchester, May Balls with indigestible swans, full milk bottles on my doorstep, lawn tennis championships, darts competitions, endless conversations with plenty of pints, a prolonged honeymoon with my newlywed wonderful wife, a great time.

  'Wolfson', for someone who came up in 1969, was a benefactor who changed our University College to a rapidly expanding complex. Our 'seed' was the gracious Bredon House, which was soon surrounded by honey-bricked flats, and filled with international students. Wolfson College meant traditional excellence and international friends. 

The most important thing is the warmth with which the Wolfson community surrounds you from your first moment there. Everyone, from the smiling porters to the kindest administrative staff I have ever met, 'conspires' to make your Wolfson experience a unique one. Wolfson holds a very special place in my heart.


Open, warm, friendly, welcoming, supportive, and inspiring across cultures and disciplines – that is Wolfson, everywhere: in the Lee Hall during dancing and concerts, in the library, laundry room, gym, rowing boat, garden, on the tennis court, at the Porters’ Lodge, and in the dining hall, for me since 2006.

Wolfson made my Cambridge experience feel like home. I had the best time of my life pursuing the LLM with the support of the College. More importantly, I made lifelong friends with fellow Wolfsonians from all over the world and shared many joyful student-y moments: Bops, Formal Halls and more.


Memories of Wolfson in the early 1990s are of a soul-uplifting atmosphere at a time of very hard work. To 'escape' to a friendly College, with Professor David Williams as President, lovely gardens, good library and exchanges with people of many nationalities was sanity indeed, and the atmosphere continues today.

Fifty delegates from 45 countries on the 1971 Development Studies course-me the only Brit! Culturally cosmopolitan but comfortingly coherent, we watched Top of the Pops together every week on the College TV, and our multi-national May Boat got three bumps despite a huge-hatted lady cox. Worldwide friendships still flourish.


Wolfson is an amazing mix of friendly people, reliable accommodation and a full range of modern facilities for the benefit of its students. Add the cosmopolitan atmosphere and you realise why I found the College's environment inspirational, educative, supportive and heart-warming alike; it's a place that you can really call home!

Collegiality, Family, Accessibility, broad-minded discussions, learning about other cultures, the Arts, Darts, better than average food; cold weather, garden parties with mulled wine with chamber music: academic robes, Hugh Plommer holding forth at dessert, President Morrison's calm leadership, growth and expansion, pride of membership . These words Ring True for me.    


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