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Image of Tour group at the Fortieth
Photo: Chris Loades Photography

'The Fortieth': Jesus College marks 40 years of mixed education

A king in a car park, covert ‘behave badly’ badges and messing about on the river were all part of festivities to mark 40 years of mixed education at Jesus College, Cambridge on Saturday 12 October.

In the same week that Sonita Alleyne OBE was admitted to her new role as Master of Jesus College – the first woman to hold the role – over 200 alumni, fellows, staff and students came together at ‘The Fortieth’ to celebrate the College and its community.

Highlights of the day included a lecture from Dr Turi King (1993), who led the DNA analysis of the skeletal remains of King Richard III found in a car park in Leicester in 2012, and a showcase of current research being carried out by postgraduate students: Emma Findlay, Bethany Connolly and Róisín Donohoe.

Attendees had the chance to relive their student days by rowing on the River Cam with the Jesus College Boat Club, and by singing with the College’s world-renowned choir in the 12th Century Chapel. Attendees were also able to explore some of the rare books and manuscripts housed in the atmospheric Old Library, and tour the rich and varied Jesus College art and sculpture collections.

A special exhibition, ‘Sisters, servants and students: 850 years of women at Jesus College’, was put on by Archivist Rob Athol. It charts the history of women at Jesus College; from the nuns of St Radegund's Priory whose buildings and land the College was founded on, to the admittance of renowned historian Professor Lisa Jardine as the College’s first female Fellow in 1976, and beyond. It features ‘Behave Badly’ badges given by Professor Jardine to female students and friends – worn under jackets as necessary – to encourage women to question and disrupt. The exhibition will be available to view in the Marshall Room until 10th January 2020.

The day was rounded off by a panel discussion on College Life for Women, with Jesus College’s female alumni as panellists, drawn from a wide variety of fields and industries. They reflected on how university education can best further career development and life opportunities for women, and shared memories of their time at Jesus College. The Reverend Canon Philippa Boardman, who was one of the first female graduates of the College to be ordained, lead the Evensong service in Chapel, which included a specially commissioned piece of music by Joanna Ward (2016), one of the College’s most recent graduates.

A celebratory dinner in Hall followed, with speeches given by Chair of the Fortieth Committee Mrs Margaret White (1979), and the Master Sonita Alleyne. A new undergraduate bursary – The Fortieth – was launched, which will empower more students in financial need to enjoy the world-class Cambridge education. See here for more information about The Fortieth bursary, and for ways to donate.

Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College, said: "It’s important to mark these anniversaries, to acknowledge how far we’ve come in widening access to the College and University, and to spur on our work to encourage applications from anyone from any background who has the potential to thrive here".

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