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June 2015 - VIPs at Warwick - Families on Campus

Warwick has welcomed many VIPs to its campus, but students through the decades have also had their own VIPs to welcome - parents and families.

Families on CampusTraditions have changed since the University first opened in 1965, when students would often make their way alone to Warwick. Many families now accompany new students as they start their first terms, and this blog recalls those familial experiences on campus.

Elizabeth Dean describes the way things were done during her time at Warwick from 1976-1979. “Parents weren’t involved at all in those days. They were so much less involved with what was going on with their offspring going to university compared with what I’m aware of these days. So you had to make your own way there, catch the train for the day.”

Karen Fill said of her parents, “They didn’t come up at all until graduation. They did write, I wrote to them, they wrote to me, and in the summer holidays I didn’t live with them, I lived with friends and visited them. I remember pitching up at Coventry rail station [on my first day], fleets of busses, students with suitcases and backpacks, the busses offloading us and being met and told where you had to go. At graduation I got tickets for my mum and dad. Graduation was in Coventry Cathedral, but the celebrations were [on campus] on the grass with beer tents in front of Senate House. I remember my dad raising that glass of beer because he was so proud that I had got a university degree."

Gordon Freeman studied Philosophy from 2002-2005. “My parents would come to see me and have a look at campus. They were impressed and they still come back here sometimes. My daughter was born last year and they’ll come and push her round here sometimes because it’s nice, especially in springtime, it’s a really pretty place to come for a walk round.”

Andrew Bradley completed his undergraduate Politics degree in 2009. “My parents were very supportive of the subject choice and the place, and enjoyed coming and visiting Warwick. They dropped me off on the first weekend and I remember my dad saying, 'I know why you wanted to come and study here', so he was really impressed by the facilities on campus.”

David Coates remembers his first day at Warwick: “I wanted to get there as early as possible, but my parents didn’t. They were doing road works in Coventry and we sat in traffic for about an hour and a half, and I was getting very stressed! As soon as they’d unloaded my stuff, I shoved them out the door and they went off to the Vice-Chancellor’s speech and I got to know the floor.”

Business Studies student Cathy Conan said, “After the holidays [my mother] always took me back to Warwick, which was 5 hours in the car! I do remember my first day at Warwick, she gave me a tin of biscuits and said, ‘Walk into the kitchen with the tin of biscuits. It’ll be the worst moment of your life, but if you go in with the tin, people will talk to you’. And she was spot on.”

Kim Eccleston studied Maths from 2002 to 2005. “I arrived on Saturday, my parents stayed at Gran's [who lived in Coventry] and then picked me up on Sunday and we had lunch with Gran. So the first night was really easy, and it was only when they drove away on the Sunday that I realised, they’re gone, this is it, I’m on my own now. So that was the heart-in-mouth moment.”

Sam Davies recalls the journey to start her first term. “I remember vividly sitting in the car outside my mum’s house ready to go to university and being in floods of tears because I was really scared about it. My first memory of Warwick was driving through campus trying to find where I’d be living and my mum said, ‘This place is like bloody Butlins!’ She felt like it looked like a holiday camp because everything was on campus. I always say that mum slowed the car down just enough to push me and my stuff out!”

Savannah Hersov saw the first experiences of University as a family affair. "My dad went to Oxford and he wasn’t particularly keen on it, but when we came to visit Warwick at the open day, at the very end he said to me, 'I wish I’d come to a place like this, this looks like so much fun. I think I really would have enjoyed coming to a university like this.' A lot of people I knew from school didn’t go with any parents but I very much thought, well, my parents are part of my life, they know me well. I wanted them to come along.”

After Professor Tom Vincent’s plans for education were put on hold following the death of his father, he joined Warwick in 1966 as a mature undergraduate student, aged 31. After suffering the financial hardships of providing for a family whilst completing a Chemistry undergraduate degree, his young daughters accompanied him to Coventry Cathedral for his graduation. “That was a great day. The girls were growing up and were quite happy to wear the mortar board and show off on the steps of the cathedral. It was a fun day and a lot of relief. And my mother was still alive so she’d seen her ambition, which was to get me a better education, achieved.”

Listen to June's accompanying podcast here for more stories of campus VIPs, and stay tuned for next month’s instalment.

Click here to listen to the full interviews featured in the blog (and podcast). Browse the page by searching for a particular participant in the search bar, or scrolling through the alphabetical list.