50 years since they graduated from the University of Reading, over 20 alumni gathered on Whiteknights Campus for a reunion that included seminars, auctions, tours and plenty of reminiscing.
CONNECTED spoke to the organisers of the reunion – Kevin Elvidge who studied Economics and Steve Love who studied Mathematics and Computer Science – to find out what inspired them to organise the reunion and what it was like to be back on campus 50 years after their graduation.
50 years later
The group were reunited at the University from Sunday 8 October to Tuesday 10 October. Although this was the first time many had been back to campus since their graduation in 1973, it was not the first reunion they had had. Kevin explained:
“We held a reunion for a group of mainly ex-Whiteknights Hall alumni four years ago in 2019, in Hampshire. It was at that time the group pledged to continue to arrange reunions on a more regular basis.
“Then the pandemic got in the way of our plans so we decided that we would postpone the next reunion until 2023, which, of course, coincided with 50 years since the class of ’73 graduated. This inspired us to extend the gathering to more ’73 alumni.”
Kevin and Steve managed to grow their original core group to over 20 people attending for the 50 year reunion. Kevin said:
“It was nothing short of magical to see everyone again and for many of us it evoked thoughts of how much we would love to have our time at Reading all over again.”
Steve added: “With 50 years having passed since some of us had last seen each other, that made initial recognition a challenge, but the same characters lurked within and it was ‘just like yesterday’ when we started talking and sharing memories.”
It was these moments reminiscing about old times that were particularly special for Kevin and Steve. Kevin said: “All of the opportunities to sit, chat and catch up, in some cases, on 50 lost years were a particular highlight.
“In one case, two members of the University of Reading men’s hockey team of the early seventies discovered that they had both been playing representative hockey until well into their sixties!”
A testimony to Reading
During their time on Whiteknights Campus they were lucky enough to have a tour of all the University museums. Steve said:
“The University went out of its way to make us feel welcome. We have to give a special thanks to the curators and staff of the Ure Museum – who welcomed us on their usual closure day, the Cole Museum, the MERL, VenueReading and the Library who all made extensive efforts to make our visit memorable.
“We were also very impressed with the students who worked around the campus, especially at the reception and dinner we had in Park House.” The group were even greeted by some former teaching staff. Kevin said:
“It was amazing and awe-inspiring to meet up with three of the teaching staff who had taught us. Professor Mark Casson from Economics, Professor Mike Baines – who was tutor to three of our group in Mathematics, and Dr Vassili Corbas who also taught Mathematics. All three are still going strong with teaching after 50 years!
“It’s a testimony to the strength and retention powers of being at Reading.
“The Park House reception was an ideal opportunity to describe to them how their teaching inspired us and to thank them for the great start they gave us in our careers.”
The group not only used their time at Park House to thank their former lecturers and tutors but hosted an auction for the group too. Kevin shared:
“We held an auction of early ‘70s memorabilia and this gem of a jumper sold for £20. In total we raised over £200 and were able to make a donation to the University Fundraising Team for them to use to support students in need.”
Rolling back the years
Kevin reflected that there were noticeably some differences around campus, but some things hadn’t seemed to change at all. He said:
“Several buildings are just as we remember them. Edith Morley, Mathematics, JJ Thompson, Chemistry, Palmer, the Great Hall and Wessex Hall all seem to have remained much as they were.
“Some of the Halls of Residences had changed noticeably, especially the demise of Whiteknights Hall making way for Mackinder Hall; and the complete replacement of the Bridges buildings. We didn’t even look for Sibley Hall in Earley which we knew had been demolished! Extensions to the Students Union and Library, and new buildings for Computer Science, Eat at the Square – formerly The Buttery – and the Sports Complex are a massive improvement.”
The reunion was a hit for everyone, Jane Wilson who studied History said:
“The day spent on Whiteknights campus was amazing. The socialising and catching up really did roll back the years. It was such a successful few days which has left me thinking not only ‘where have all those years gone’ but also huge gratitude that I was part of such a fabulous time.”
As the organisers of the event, Steve and Kevin would encourage others to bring back memories and hold a reunion of their own. Kevin said:
“We would encourage anyone considering holding a reunion to go for it! Two of our participants already are. They were actually class of ’74 graduates and Kevin and I are already thinking about ways in which we might be able to assist in their efforts to stage their 50th anniversary reunion in 2024. We might even gatecrash it!”
If you are interested in exploring the potential for holding an alumni reunion of your own on campus, or if you have held a reunion and would like to share your experience with us please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.