Supporter Stories: Justin Bronder (2003, Astrophysics) and the Dakota Foundation

At the heart of Cohen Quad will be a café serving hot and cold food and drinks. The café will form a social hub for students and fellows to meet, make friends and lifelong connections, and exchange ideas. It will be named the Dakota Café after the Dakota Foundation, founded by alumnus Bart Holaday (1965, PPE), which has supported the Walton Street development as part of its mission to enhance human capabilities through activities that combine business discipline with charitable intent.

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Architect render of the Dakota Café 

Exeter alumnus and member of the Dakota Foundation board Justin Bronder (2003, Astrophysics) visited Cohen Quad in January 2016 with his wife Jennifer (2002, Music) to see how work is progressing at the site.

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Inspecting the site from Worcester Place

“I remember being briefed on the planned extension of the College and being blown away by the vision,” he said. “I thought about what it would mean to me, if I were a student again, to have amazing facilities like that so close to the centre of Oxford and to the College’s main site. When I thought about what future Exeter students will have I was kind of a bit jealous!

“I lived at Exeter House before it was renovated. It was part of the Oxford experience I enjoyed, but you might say it was ‘gritty’! Rector Cairncross came to Exeter a year after I started with a vision and did a great job making that vision reality. Exeter House has now been renovated for members of the MCR and the development at Walton Street is a continuation of that vision, with amazing accommodation for members of the JCR and study facilities for the whole College. Cohen Quad has got all the facilities that appeal to modern, professional students. Today it is students at other colleges who will be jealous of Exeter!

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Exeter’s Development Assistant Rosemary Hurford (centre) talks Justin and his wife Jennifer through the construction work and the vision for the site

“The Dakota Café reflects the habits of students and professionals and today’s culture. We live in a café culture. The Dakota Café will be an important part of the academic and social life of the College. I’m proud to serve on an organisation that helps make that possible for Exeter.”

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Justin and Jennifer in front of what will be the lecture theatre and north-facing quadrangle

Supporter Stories: Amanda McDonald and Friends

Amanda McDonald came up to Exeter in 1991 to read English.  She has many happy memories of her time at the College and has remained in touch with many of her Exeter friends.

Sadly, Amanda is now very ill and her friends have decided to come together to commemorate her time at Exeter by naming a student bedroom in her honour at Cohen Quad.  Together, they will donate £10,000 to make the dream a reality.

Charlotte Morgan (1991, English) said: “Amanda has been my dearest friend since College days.  We love to imagine future students gossiping, drinking bad coffee and generally having the time of their lives in ‘her’ room, just as we did all those years ago.”

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Architect’s render of a student bedroom at Cohen Quad

Amanda returned to Exeter this week with her husband Dean, her father Alan and three of her greatest College friends.  After lunch, she and Dean renewed their wedding vows in the Chapel, where they were married in July 2010.  At the end of their visit, they drove to Walton Street to take a look at Cohen Quad as it goes up.

Amanda said: “Exeter College is a very special place for me and I’m thrilled with the idea of the Amanda McDonald Room. It means so much to me and my family that I will be remembered in this way.”

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Amanda and Charlotte finishing Finals, summer 1994

After leaving university Amanda went on to a build a successful career in marketing and advertising, becoming MD of a marketing agency in the Midlands.  Her insights into community marketing have proved invaluable for us at Exeter and we’d like to thank her for sharing her inspiring ideas about building vibrant alumni communities, many of which shaped this very blogsite.

If you would like to make a donation towards the Amanda McDonald Bedroom, please contact us.

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The Exeter College Chapel, where Dean and Amanda were married in 2010

Supporter Stories: Bart and Cathy Holaday

Bart Holaday came to Exeter as a Rhodes Scholar from North Dakota in 1965.  He read for a two-year PPE degree and became heavily involved in College life.

Fast-tracking 50 years, Bart remembers clearly his first discussion in 2009 with former Rector Dame Frances Cairncross about the opportunity to purchase the site for sale on Walton Street.  He admired her commitment and vision and was delighted to be involved in the plans for the new campus from the outset.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to expand the College’s footprint in such a significant way 700 years after our foundation, and it’s a great thing for the University too,” Bart said in a phone call to us recently.  “My wife Cathy and I were taken in by the College’s ambition to achieve this enormous project and we are delighted to play our part in bringing Exeter’s third quadrangle into existence.”

Bart and Cathy Holaday (photo courtesy of the Dakota Foundation)
Bart and Cathy Holaday (photo courtesy of the Dakota Foundation)

Bart fully believes that Exeter should offer more modern facilities to students.  During his two years at the College he lived in staircase 7 on the Front Quad and in a room in Margary Quad, which was then only two years old and which offered some of the most modern accommodation in Oxford at the time.  He feels it is only right that the College develop 21st century residential and study space to better meet the needs of today’s students.

Bart and Cathy are particularly excited by the thoughtful design of Cohen Quadrangle, with its intermingled learning and living spaces.  Bart feels strongly that as much of his Oxford education happened outside his tutorials as in them, such as the spontaneous discussions that happened in the undercroft buttery, or the debates that took place over dinner in Hall.  During his time at Oxford he met students of many nationalities and from many backgrounds, who influenced him profoundly and encouraged him to broaden his perspective.

Through their family foundation, the Dakota Foundation, Bart and Cathy have made a gift to Cohen Quadrangle to support precisely this: the interdisciplinary, intellectual-come-social contact that springs up in collegiate spaces.  In recognition of this gift, Exeter is delighted to name the Dakota Café at Cohen Quad in Bart and Cathy’s honour.

The Dakota Café, serving hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes and other snacks, will be at the heart of Cohen Quadrangle.  It will have plentiful seating space and an open, friendly feel, where students can meet to socialise or study – or both.  With WiFi throughout and generous opening hours, it will be a popular part of Cohen Quad.  In many ways, it has been devised to echo those same gatherings and discussions that Bart experienced as a student at Exeter in the 1960s, in a modern setting.

Architect's render of the Dakota Cafe
Architect’s render of the Dakota Cafe

Bart finished our call by saying how much he has enjoyed following the genesis of Cohen Quad and how excited he is by its imminent opening.  He feels there could be no better way for Exeter to enter its eighth century than by expanding its physical footprint in this way.  “Cohen Quadrangle is innovative, creative and focussed on students: what a vastly positive thing this is for Exeter College.”

Supporter Stories: Spencer Phua and Julie Phua-Ng

Siblings Spencer Phua (1987, PPE) and Julie Phua-Ng (1991, Philosophy and Modern Languages) came to Exeter from Singapore and have fond memories of their student days in Oxford.  They were excited to hear about opportunities to support the development of Cohen Quadrangle when the site was purchased in 2011.  Together, they have made a donation which will see one of the building’s 90 student bedrooms named in their honour.

Spencer recalls: “In my first year at Exeter, l lived in the Back Quad in College, behind the Chapel.  Staircase 14, I think, on the second floor.  I liked it because it had a separate bedroom and study room.  For my second and third years, l lived out of College, up the Banbury Road.  They were private rental rooms in two of the large old houses on the road and so I didn’t really spend much time in Exeter-owned accommodation during my degree.”

Spencer and Julie are very happy to support Cohen Quad, particularly the residential spaces, because of the prestige the new facilities will bring the College: “Good housing conditions and more College-owned accommodation for students will help attract a strong application pool.  Graduates who speak well of Exeter’s facilities will then act as a strong advertisement to other potential students,” Spencer wrote in an email.

Spencer also feels a need to help Exeter and also Oxford more generally, saying that “Between my two alma maters, Oxford receives less funding than the US business school I attended for my MBA.  It therefore makes sense for me to support the College and University in their development efforts to offer an amazing education to students from all backgrounds and from all over the world.”

Exeter is grateful to Spencer and Julie for their enthusiasm for the new campus and for their generous support, helping us to create modern, comfortable facilities for our students to enjoy. We are looking forward to showing them Cohen Quadrangle on their next UK visit!

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Spencer Phua
Julia Phua-Ng photo
Julie Phua-Ng

Donations can still be made to name a student bedroom on Cohen Quadrangle; please contact the Development Office for more information.

To read more about the student bedrooms at Cohen Quadrangle, click here.

Supporter Stories: Neil and Debra Blair

Neil Blair came up to Exeter to read Jurisprudence in 1986.  He worked hard and was acutely aware from the very start of the privilege of living and working in such a beautiful and historic place.  He feels that, in many ways, being at Exeter launched his professional career and he looks back on his student days with gratitude and affection.

Now a literary agent, Neil’s days are filled with books and writing.  He has spent time over the last few years visiting some of Exeter’s ancient printed books and manuscripts and understanding their varied provenance.  He admits to being amazed that a 30,000-strong collection of rare books could have lain under his feet in the basement of the College Library without his knowledge while he was a student, and he fully supports Exeter’s aims to make these volumes more accessible to all.

Two years ago, Neil and his wife Debra chose to make a donation to support the construction of the climate-controlled archive space and reading room at Cohen Quadrangle.  They believe strongly in opening up access to ancient collections so that students, scholars and visitors alike can learn more about these treasures.  They are excited about what this storage and study area will mean for Exeter’s special collections and archives.

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Neil Blair at Cohen Quadrangle.

“I have always been passionate about literature, something which grew throughout my time as a student at Exeter and which is fundamental to my professional life.  So when I learnt about the opportunity to restore Exeter’s most precious books and move them to the best possible storage space on the new quadrangle, I was delighted to help.  I am excited to think that these amazing collections can be preserved for the future and made better available to more people for study and research,” he said.

Neil, Debra and their friends visited Cohen Quad during construction in the summer of 2015 and were the first visitors to enter the basement archive section under construction.  Standing on bare concrete with builders working all around, the group were amazed to think that in eighteen months’ time the first precious books would have a permanent home in this very spot!

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Neil and Debra Blair survey the construction of the special collections storage area at Cohen Quad.
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Basement plan of Cohen Quad with the rolling stacks for Exeter’s special collections visible at the top left-hand corner of the image.

To learn more about Exeter’s special collections, follow the College’s Librarian’s blog and read our previous post on this site.

Supporter Stories: Henry and Cheryl Kloppenburg

Henry and Cheryl Kloppenburg

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. “

Architect's impression of a teaching and seminar room at Cohen Quad
Architect’s impression of a teaching and seminar room at Cohen Quad
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The existing Saskatchewan Room at Exeter
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Plaque in the Saskatchewan Room recognising those who supported its creation

Supporter Stories: Henry Brown

Thank you!

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:

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Henry Brown at Cohen Quad, June 2015

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.”

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Henry surveys the Hanging Room under construction
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Architect’s impression of the Hanging Room (top left-hand corner of the picture)