The Origins of the Alumni Association

The formation of the Old Students' Association, which is now known as the Alumni Association.

Keeping in Touch

The University College when it was young was keen to stay in touch with its first graduates. Many of them remained very much a part of the University community. Others went onto jobs or further study that the University tracked with great interest. Keeping them in touch with new students was beneficial, and the University College Magazine issue of December 1925 includes an anonymous page by Old Students, passing on their wisdom:

Article by Old Students in the Leicester University College Magazine of December 1925 (University of Leicester Archives, ULA/P/MN1/3).

It was also reported that an Old Students' Association had been formally set up. The Annual Report for 1925-26 (p.13): "The Academic Board rejoices in the foundation of an Old Students' Association, which has held successful gatherings." The next Annual Report (1926-27, p.13) reports: "The Old Student' Association held gratifying meetings in September, and in the Christmas vacation." By the following year then, Old Students' activities were firmly established. As p.15 in the Annual Report for 1927-28 says: "The Old Students' Association was entertained to a garden party at the College by Mrs. Bernard Ellis, another friend of the students and of the College of constant interest, and held another successful function in the Christmas vacation." Old Students also kept in touch with new students, sending them updates for the student publications.

 

The First Going Down Dinner

On 8th June 1925, The Students' Union held the first Going Down dinner for the first graduates. The host for the evening was the retiring President of the Students' Union, Miss Nellie Bonsor, one of the first ever students at the University College. This clipping from the Leicester Mail, 09 June 1925, reports on the proceedings, including that a special toast was made to Mr Buckler, the History lecturer, who was leaving to take up a Chair in Ohio.

Clipping from the Leicester Mail, 9th June 1925, reporting on the first ever Going Down dinner for students of the Leicester University College
Clipping from the Leicester Mail, 9th June 1925, reporting on the first ever Going Down dinner for students of the Leicester University College. Taken from the Press Cuttings books in the University of Leicester Archives (ULA/PCB1/p.84).

 

"Encaenia" - Prize-Giving Ceremony

The first Encaenia held at the University College took place on 11th June 1925. Its name was taken from the Greek meaning "Making-New." This clipping from the Leicester Mail on 12 June 1925 reports on the speech made by the Principal, Dr Rattray, and records the prizes that were handed out to students who came top of their subjects.

Clipping from the Leicester Mail, 12th June 1925, reporting on the first ever Encaenia (prize-giving) ceremony at the University College (from the University of Leicester Archives Press Cuttings books ULA/PCB1/p.84)
Clipping from the Leicester Mail, 12th June 1925, reporting on the first ever Encaenia (prize-giving) ceremony at the University College (from the University of Leicester Archives Press Cuttings books ULA/PCB1/p.84)

 

Following the Progress of Old Students

The University College took an active interest in where the first students went. It was keen to report successes back to the University community, and even in the local press. In the University Archives, there is a small folder entitled "Careers of Old Students" (pictured below), and this appears to have been updated with any pieces of news they received about some of the early students.

Inside cover and one page from the 'Careers of Old Students' book in the University Archives (ULA/SR4/1), showing the entry for Rhoda Bennett
Inside cover and one page from the 'Careers of Old Students' book in the University of Leicester Archives (ULA/SR4/1), showing the entry for Rhoda Bennett

The Annual Reports reinforced this ongoing interest in the futures of its students. The Annual Report for 1926-27 (p.13) says: "It is interesting to hear of a former student of this College being asked to become the governess to the children of the Viceroy of India, and of students from the Department of Commerce being already in demand in the city." And in the Annual Report for 1927-28 (p.11), it says: "It is gratifying to be able to record that all the graduate students who left the College at the end of session 1927-8 had got posts by the beginning of session 1928-9." The University College continued to follow and report on the progress of its Alumni. Another example comes up in the Annual Report for 1928-29: "For the first time a student of this College has been appointed to a University post, namely, Miss Gertrude Clamp, BSc., who is now an assistant in Botany at Aberdeen University. Mr. Snow, at Cambridge, has been doing distinguished research work, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, and has had a paper read at the Symposium of the Societe de Chimie Physique at Paris."

 

"A Sacred and Unforgettable Association"*

Nellie Bonsor, one of the first students at the University College Leicester, returns for a garden party in 1933 when the British Association for the Advancement of Science visits. From the University of Leicester Archives, ULA/FG9/2/3
Nellie Bonsor, one of the first students at the University College Leicester, returns for a garden party in 1933 when the British Association for the Advancement of Science visits. From the University of Leicester Archives, ULA/FG9/2/3

The connection between the University and its Alumni has always been strengthened by enjoyable social occasions. Early examples are the functions mentioned in the Annual Report for 1927-28 (p.15): "The Old Students' Association was entertained to a garden party at the College by Mrs. Bernard Ellis, another friend of the students and of the College of constant interest, and held another successful function in the Christmas vacation." We also know that former students were invited back when the British Association for the Advancement of Science held its meeting at the University College in 1933. Nellie Bonsor (pictured) was one of these. Bonsor donated books to the library in this (1932-33) year.

 

 

Sources:

University of Leicester Archives, Annual Reports, ULA/P/AR5-7

University of Leicester Archives, Careers of Old Students book, ULA/SR4/1

University of Leicester Archives, Press Cuttings Books, ULA/PCB1

*Title taken from a line in a Leicester Mail article of 09 June 1925 about the first ever Going Down dinner for graduates

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