Professor Christina de Bellaigue, Jackson Fellow in Modern History, moved from Turl Street to Cohen Quad at the start of term. She is now installed in one of the Fellows’ teaching rooms on the third floor of Cohen Quad and her office looks out over the auditorium towards the western outskirts of Oxford. Here’s what she says:
“As one of the Fellows who has just moved into Cohen Quad, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who made it possible. It’s an inspiring building to work and teach in, even still in progress, and the views are fantastic. The building is going to bring such a new lease of life to the College.
“I held a workshop on admissions, outreach and access in the Kloppenburg Room on Tuesday. It was fantastic, we could all hear what each participant was saying, the room was comfortable and accessible to everyone, and we had lots of good ideas about how we could make good Exeter’s commitment (dating back to 1314!) to recruit the most able students from all walks of life, and honour the spirit of Ruskin College (which was established to extend access to education, and on whose former site Cohen Quad now stands). It’s really exciting to have the opportunity to organise events like this because we now have the space. I’m confident that the building will become a hive of intellectual activity and a key hub for academic exchange.
“I also love walking around and seeing the students at work in the Learning Commons or chatting over coffee, and I can’t wait to use the Special Collections rooms to teach some of them. On a personal level, after 10 years at Turl Street, I feel re-energised and ready for anything.”
The view from Professor de Bellaigue’s teaching room
Henry Kloppenburg (1968, Civil Law) came to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He is one of a long line of Rhodes Scholars who came to Exeter from the province of Saskatchewan in the Canadian Prairies.
Saskatchewan is well-known at the College on account of the lecture theatre under staircase 9 which bears its name, built in the 1980s thanks to generous donations from Henry and his wife Cheryl and several fellow Saskatchewan Rhodes Scholars. It was Henry who organised the campaign among Exonians from Saskatchewan, encouraged by then Rector Lord Crowther-Hunt (Lady Hunt also having a Saskatchewan connection).
Henry lived on Staircase 11 both years he was at the College. He was offered Tariq Ali’s former room for his second year, popular accommodation because it boasted central heating (which sometimes failed). Henry distinctly remembers the polyester in his trousers melting when he stood too close to the electric fire on a cold winter’s day!
Henry feels that the defining quality of Oxford’s excellence comes from both the tutorial system and the existence of a social life and community in college which bring together individuals of diverse backgrounds. This is why he believes in the ethos of Cohen Quadrangle, which “will provide accommodation for superior tutorial / teaching facilities and support relationships among the students of the College.”
Henry and his wife Cheryl have made a generous donation towards Cohen Quadrangle, specifically towards the construction of a seminar room which is to be named the Kloppenburg-Saskatchewan Room in a nod to the Turl Street lecture theatre he helped make possible 30 years ago. “Through this donation, my wife and I wish to acknowledge my debt to Exeter College for my time there. I am also grateful to give recognition to the connection of my home province of Saskatchewan”, Henry wrote.
Henry believes that the new quadrangle will foster an active community among the students in residence that would not be possible if they were dispersed in private accommodation around Oxford. This community life will in turn, he feels, result in greater benefit to students from the richness of the tutorial system. He adds that being able to live in a contemporary urban residence with good internet facilities will be a great improvement.
Henry finishes by saying “I would like to applaud the vision of Rector Cairncross and Governing Body for making this leap of faith for Exeter, and to Exonians for their support. We ought to be exceedingly grateful for that Rector’s contributions to the College during her tenure and for the current Rector’s acceptance of the challenge of making that vision come to be. “
Cohen Quad has been made possible thanks to the support of hundreds of people giving hundreds of donations, both large and small. We would like to celebrate our donors and so over the next few months we will be posting ‘supporter stories’ interspersed with our building updates, introducing just some of the many generous people who have got us this far. Our first supporter story comes from Henry Brown:
Henry Brown came up to Exeter in 1967 to read Chemistry. His accommodation experience was fairly typical of that of a 1960s undergraduate: a year on staircase 9 overlooking the Broad, a year in staircase 3 next to the Hall and two years in private lodgings in North Oxford.
Henry and his wife Jane were early supporters of the Cohen Quad project, choosing to direct their support towards the ‘Hanging Room’ in the Learning Commons, a spacious seminar room which appears suspended in mid-air.
He is excited by the additional accommodation and teaching space that the new quadrangle affords, saying “I always felt Exeter was disadvantaged by its early foundation on a site which left little room for expansion (though Dr Maddicott’s recent book, Founders and Fellowship, shows how very much was achieved on the Turl Street site). The former Ruskin College site gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change this, and I was inspired by Frances Cairncross’s determination that we should seize it to mark the 700th anniversary. It was right to think big and to build the best possible facilities for the future.”
Henry is looking forward to seeing how Exeter’s Turl and Walton Street sites will work together, “revolving around each other like the earth and the moon, so that all college members will get the benefit of both.” He feels that Cohen Quad’s multi-purpose rooms will fit well with the informal way that students operate today.
He is also delighted that Exeter will have a presence on Walton Street in particular: “Oxford is a supremely walkable university. Cohen Quad will get Exeter students out of the central area (in the 1960s, only scientists or those in search of female undergraduates went very far). Walton Street itself is on the way up with the Blavatnik School of Government almost completed and the other developments on the site of what was the Radcliffe Infirmary. It’s great that Exeter should have a presence there.”
The donations will be used towards the construction of the “Maddicott Room” at Cohen Quadrangle, a modern, spacious teaching room that will be available for use by students and academics, for both formal and informal study.
The total given stands at just under £80,000 and we have high hopes of reaching our £100,000 target over the coming months. If you would like to support the Maddicott Room through a gift of any size, please contact Tessa Stanley Price in the Development Office.