President’s Christmas Message
22nd December 2016
Season’s greetings from Magdalen!
With the Christmas tree shining brightly in St John’s Quad, and echoes of the carol concerts in the Cloisters, it’s time to reflect on the year at Magdalen.
It has been a pleasure to meet over 1600 alumni from all over the world at events in College and elsewhere this year. Particular highlights include the Women’s Dinner at the House of Lords with Baroness Harding (1985), an evening at Shakespeare’s Globe, a University Challenge quiz between our successful alumni team (captained by Louis Theroux (1988)) and our recent student quiz finalists, the alumni dinner with guest speaker Terry Waite, a ‘Brexit debate’ with leading political figures, and hearing from Oscar Wilde’s grandson Merlin Holland (1964) at the Benefactors’ Gaudy. The students held their Commemoration Ball in June with a glamourous 1920s theme.
In April I was delighted to meet many of our US alumni at dinners in New York, where John Micklethwait (1981) warned us (correctly) to expect surprises in forthcoming political events, and in Washington DC where George Will (1962) gave us his unique insight into the US Presidential Election.
A special highlight has been the completion and opening of the Longwall Library. Thanks to the enormous generosity of over 1000 of you who donated, our students moved into the library in March and it has been full ever since. We were truly honoured that the Duke of Cambridge came in May for the Royal Opening and this was followed by the Grand Opening in July where over 400 alumni donors and guests joined us in welcoming the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Louise Richardson, to cut the ribbon.
It has also been a year of change for the College Officers at Magdalen. Our Librarian Dr Christine Ferdinand retired after 24 years, and we welcomed the appointment of Daryl Green who is tasked with continuing Christine’s outstanding legacy. The Chapel and Choir had new appointments too with Dr Jonathan Arnold (previously of Worcester College) as our new Dean of Divinity, replacing Michael Piret, while Mark Williams, who takes over from Daniel Hyde, will start as the new Informator Choristarum in January.
Our Fellows have had a busy year too, and have won several top prizes. Gero Miesenboeck won the Massry Prize for his pioneering research on optogenetics and Peter Ratcliffe won the Lasker Award for his research on understanding how cells sense and signal low oxygen levels. Martin Bridson became our third current Mathematics Fellow to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. We also elected William Hague (1979) and the Queen’s private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt (2000) as Honorary Fellows.
As ever, our students have also been high achievers and our finalists were placed third in the Norrington Examination Table. It has been a great sporting year particularly for Magdalen’s women, with the Women’s First Eight again being head of the river in Torpids and Princess Ashilokun, an undergraduate studying English, starring in the winning women’s Varsity rugby team at Twickenham. In addition, graduate student Thais Roque (2013) launched the Oxford Students Refugee Campaign and has raised over £240,000 to be awarded in scholarships to Oxford students whose studies have been disrupted by war or persecution.
I look forward to seeing many more of you at one of our alumni events in 2017, but in the meantime I wish you and your family a wonderful festive season and a very happy New Year.
Sir David Clary