Previous anniversary profiles
Why did you pick Warwick?
I wanted a university which was not tied to tradition so that I could forge my own identity. I also wanted a self-contained campus, a good history department and a university with an active student life. Warwick made its way to my short-list and, after I found out that it had opportunities for study abroad, it made its way to my top five. After visiting for my interview, I knew that this was the place for me.
What was your first day on campus like?
What were your impressions? I knew that the University was a building site, so that was no shock. I was dropped off by my sister and her boyfriend who had driven me up from London in his Austin Morris Traveller. It was a relief when we got there as they were worried whether or not the car would make it. I was excited and nervous, in a good way. I felt that I was at the beginning of a great adventure. My room was in Rootes Hall, 'L' block. I tried making my sister and her boyfriend a coffee but had no sugar, so they suggested I get to know my neighbour by knocking on her door and asking her for some; very corny. Still, I did ask her; she was a 3rd year English student whom I rarely saw during the rest of the year. It was exhilarating to be there; I could discover myself and be myself. The people I could see looked like 'my type of person', what my parents would have called 'hippies.' I was very happy to meet my other neighbours, two of whom were from my part of London. I had no culinary skills: one of them had to show me how to use the cooker! (We remain good friends to this day.)
What did you imagine your time at University would be like?
I would work hard and play hard. Life would be very full and I would experience a lot of new things and meet lots of different people.
How close was the reality to your imagination?
Very close. Obtaining a history degree was no cake walk. I worked very hard. The Department Chair, Prof. Jack Scarisbrick, told us that we had to have the "moral fibre" to succeed; this was his justification for giving us full-blown finals which determined our course grades. That put us under a lot of pressure, especially if we were planning to continue our studies after we earned our BA. Socially and politically, Warwick was a very vibrant and was acquiring a reputation for itself as a left-wing campus with a very active student union. There was always something going on and we watched the campus grow. New buildings were constantly going up. You felt like a pioneer participating in the growth of a new community.
What’s your favourite memory of Warwick?
There are many, but the friendships were key. My 21st birthday was celebrated in Tocil flats where I lived with a group of friends. Most of us lived together in the same flat for two years so we got to know each other pretty well. For my birthday we had food and music in our kitchen - the music provided by our own resident group, Bretton. I recorded the performance and gave the members of the band a copy of the tape a few years ago.
What do you regret?
This is a tough one to answer, and I had to leave it until the end, as nothing came to mind immediately. Even then, I couldn't think of anything. I don't believe in regrets and thinking "what if.." I prefer "carpe diem".
Do you keep in touch with any friends from Warwick?
Yes, many. Although I have been living in the USA for almost 30 years, we stay in touch and when we get together it doesn't feel like we have ever been apart.
How did you imagine the future when you were at Warwick?
Anything was possible. We were all full of optimism and fortunately did not anticipate the tragedies that some of us later experienced in life. It is a confirmation of the strength of our friendships that we have been able to support each other throughout the good and bad times that some have experienced. I decided on my first day that I would not leave higher education until I got my PhD, and that I would work in academia. I achieved those goals.
How did Warwick influence your life?
It enabled me to solidify my beliefs, and to make sense of my values and priorities, which have changed little to this day. I believe that Warwick enabled me to become the person I am. The environment at Warwick, particularly at the Labour History Centre where I obtained my MA in Comparative Social History, fuelled my passion for grass roots history and social justice. Whereas there have been opportunities for me to work in the 'ivory tower’, my research focus has been on populations who have traditionally not had a voice and, in terms of my work, to contribute to institutions that create opportunities for the economically and educationally disadvantaged.
What do you think has been the most important invention of the last 50 years?
The computer. Not the Charles Babbage or Alan Turing machines, but the multi-purpose, portable gadgets which have us permanently connected to the outside world.
What do you think has been the most substantial cultural change of the last 50 years?
Civil rights, which includes rights for minorities, those with physical and mental disabilities, and various sexual orientations.
What are the best book, film and album of the 1970s?
Difficult as there was a big shift in culture from the early to the late seventies, especially in music. 'Best' meaning most impact or enjoyable? That being said:
- Non-fiction: All the President's Men
- Fiction: Roots
- Films: Apocalypse Now
- Album: early 70s: Dark Side of the Moon
- Album late 70s: Saturday Night Fever
If you could offer one piece of advice to current students what would it be?
Have an open mind and try everything. See yourself as a canvas with a charcoal sketch to which you are going to add colour and details. Get involved in social issues; if you don't do it now when will you? (I guess that's more than one piece of advice.)
Thank you Warwick for all the opportunities, learning and friendships. It's a honour to represent the 1970s!