Journeys – A love story….

Peter Marshall (Darwin 81) shares his story with us:

You had the window seat. I had travelled the Edinburgh to London journey so many times that it did not matter where I sat. The same fields, factories, housing estates, whizzing by. Anyway, the aisle seat provided more people-watching opportunities. No mobile phones or electronic gadgetry to distract us in the mid-1970’s.

I sat next to you. You would never know how much this act was one of supreme bravery. Six years in a boys’ school, four years in the merchant navy and now a soldier in an infantry battalion, gave me very few opportunities to hone the skills required to interact with members of the female gender.

You were lovely. You had a quiet assuredness and a completeness about you. You had recently graduated from the University of Kent. Me – sitting next to a university graduate! Well, why not someone or something from Mars or Pluto. It would have had the same effect. You were the first university graduate I had ever met in my life. Terrifying. In the battalion, though, with my single ‘O’ level, I had strangely attained almost professorial status in the eyes of my fellow soldiers in those days. You went to that university – really? Captain *****, from B Company went there too. Maybe you know him? No? Hm…. this university must be big place.

My lack of education represented a huge gap within me. One leg, one eye, same effect. Always something missing. A prisoner of my own ignorance, but I knew that somehow, someway, I must escape, one day.

Courage was plucked and yes you would go out for a drink with me when we both returned to Edinburgh. We went out a few times and later I invited you to the battalion dinner and dance. But something was not right. With me. My fault. My problem. Never yours. At the end of the dance we took a taxi. You to your home – me back to my barracks on the outskirts of Edinburgh. I just exited the taxi and did not say goodbye. Shameful behaviour. You did not deserve that. The yawning educational gap was too much for me. As I say, this was my problem.

Another tour of South West Belfast and later, discharge from the army. Study, work, marriage and fatherhood. A partner who encouraged me to go to university. Education, still a Sisyphean endeavour. Always a struggle. No glittering prizes, but nevertheless, the gradual filling of a void. Goodness knows I have forgotten your name, but not you.

Forty years on, I need to explain, to apologise to you for my stupid behaviour. Would you remember me? Would you forgive me? Should we be in contact, perhaps I would tell you that less than 10 years after we met, Lord Grimond would present me with my law degree from the same university as the one you attended, on a sunny July afternoon in Canterbury Cathedral. I had finally escaped and now I was free.

You gave me the key to that freedom.

Kent launches new alumni association in France

The University is delighted to announce the establishment of a new alumni association in France. The group was launched as part of the annual Paris reception in March and the committee was selected at its inaugural meeting in April.

Alumni groups bring together former students and staff of the University who are located in a specific region or have a shared special interest. They support Kent staff, students and activities in their area such as recruitment, partnership development and fundraising. Groups are run by a committee of alumni volunteers who direct activities and liaise with the University on behalf of their members. The University currently has alumni associations in France, Greece, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nigeria and the United States.

The University of Kent France Alumni Association’s committee members are:

Juliette King (Politics, Rutherford 2005) – Chair
Jane Verwijs (Law, Eliot 1981) – Secretary
Sophie Bory (Politics, Keynes 2005) – Events Officer
Mathilde Guenegan (Journalism, Medway 2013) – Communications Officer
Théo Thieffry (Politics, Rutherford 2007) – External Outreach Officer
Valérie Gratzer (Politics, Rutherford 1981) – General Officer
Kim Randazzo (SECL, Eliot 1987) – General Officer
Sally Miller (History, Rutherford 1965) – General Officer

Find out more about our alumni groups on the alumni website.

Kent alumni and students volunteer to support homeless

A team of 10 Kent alumni and students volunteered at the Catching Lives Day Centre in Canterbury on Saturday 20 May as part of a new initiative in partnership with Kent Union. Kent Gives Back enables graduates and students to work together for a local community cause and help people and projects that matter to them. It’s also a fun and rewarding way for alumni and students to share stories about their experiences at and after Kent!

Volunteers ran social activities with clients and helped centre staff to clean and organise the facilities.

Alumna Jessica Farnham (Rutherford 2002) said of the experience: “It was great to work with students and fellow alumni and be able to make a very small difference to a fantastic cause by interacting with the service users. I can’t wait to get involved again for future projects”.

Got a project you think Kent Gives Back could help with? Contact Volunteer Management Officer Kasia Senyszyn at

Love at Mungo’s

Halloween in America is a big deal; which is why Sarah Whiting, a post-graduate business student from  San Diego California, made sure she and her friends attended Mungo’s Massive Halloween party. Dressed as a black cat, Sarah accidentally bumped into Jonathan, wearing a football kit and bad ghost makeup, while attempting to enquire about his mate’s Cruella Deville costume. they met briefly and didn’t see each other again for the rest of the night.

Roughly a week later, through random events and fate, Sarah was invited into an unfamiliar flat in her Woolf College block after a lecture and after a few minutes of chatting Jonathan walks in and they meet again this time properly both remembering the other from the brief encounter at Mungo’s. After a night of chatting, the next night is Bonfire night and Sarah has plans to watch the fireworks in London. Anticipating her very late arrival back to the Canterbury bus station on a cold night, Jonathan offers Sarah a ride home and that’s where the romance began. To this day they celebrate their anniversary by going and watching fireworks on the 5th of November.

After conquering the year of postgraduate study together, Jonathan travelled back to California with Sarah to meet her family and to her surprise, he proposed on the plane ride back to London in a spectacular gesture involving the first class lounge and whole flight crew! Now looking to the future together they will celebrate their engagement along with their graduation ceremony this July with friends and family from all over the world. They plan to be married in California next November and return to London to live happily ever after.

Paul: The Forgotten Fourdrinier by Peter Simpson (Rutherford 70)

Peter Simpson graduated in History, Rutherford 1970 and after a lifetime in business has written his first book.

The Forgotten Fourdrinier

Paul is almost forgotten and artistically under-rated but was an accomplished copper engraver who founded the English Fourdrinier dynasty which produced the developers of the Fourdrinier Papermaking machine and the wife of Cardinal Newman.

He was connected to aristocrats and great projects of the age, including the development of Palladian neoclassical architecture, the Foundling’s Hospital and the Savannah colony in Georgia and renowned talents such as the sculptor Rysbrack, painter Hogarth, designer William Kent and composer George Frederick Handel. As well as the great and powerful we meet the eccentrics George Vertue, Horace Walpole, the Reverend Stephen Duck, Batty Langley, courtesan Teresia Constantia Phillips and the curious affair of Mary Toft who convinced half the nation that she had given birth to rabbits.

Further information and images of some of Paul’s work can be found at

The Life and times of Paul Fourdrinier, Huguenot Master Printmaker in London 1720-1758; published in January 2017 and available on Amazon and other online book outlets.

The Little Things by Cécile Beauvillard Burman (Eliot 2009)

They say it’s the little things. All the little decisions you make, each day, like pins marking the trajectory of your life: landmarks that you look back on one day and think, that day changed my life. The coincidences, the people you meet, and the places you get to see, they give substance and texture to life.

I can’t help thinking of how different my life would have been if it wasn’t for the European Union. I was born in the United States to French parents in 1990 and came back to France two years later. I studied throughout high school in what was then called the ‘European section’, which meant we had extra hours of English (grammar and literature), and what is called ‘Anglosaxon’ history in the continent. We read To Kill a Mockingbird, The Crucible, Ten Thousand Splendid Suns, Pride and Prejudice, Jayne Eyre, Wuthering Heights.  We watched Elizabeth, Ken Loach’s The Wind Shaking the Barley, Stephen Daldry’s The Queen, learnt about the Tudors and The Troubles. We even crossed the Channel and spent ten days visiting Portsmouth, Beaulieu, the Isle of White, went to the Globe in London and punting in Canterbury.

Five years later I would emerge on the Kent University Campus to start the British part of my bi-diploma, an exchange between Kent and Sciences Po Lille, having forgotten about this school trip, thinking this place felt familiar. These two years spent at Kent were a revelation on many levels. Never had I been exposed to such glorious diversity before, socially, culturally: the vibrancy of the exchange was positively overwhelming. I learnt so much in those two years, in and out of the classroom. The Societies my friends and I were members of regularly organised parties where you were supposed to bring your national dish – and I scared off many friends bringing snails or a smelly Bleu d’Auvergne my parents had sent from home.

I lived on campus with two British girls who taught me “how to speak Essex”, and a Turkish guy who cooked wonderfully fragrant dishes from his region of the country. On the last week of my first semester, I met an Italian Law student, and after a few weeks of partying we kissed in front of 16 Willows Court, Parkwood, and he became my husband six months ago.

I made friends with Spanish, Greek, Polish, German, Portuguese, Belgian friends, who were all there because when the opportunity to study abroad is so easy, why wouldn’t you? We knew we were lucky to be there, but we also took it for granted, not imagining for a second that our younger siblings or children, if we thought that far ahead, may not be able to enjoy the same freedom.

Because really that’s what it was. Freedom to travel and to move. And a greater exposure to people who come from different areas of the world and expand your horizons gives you just that: more freedom. Education means choice, and freedom, and the European Union gave us just that, and that’s the reason why the very rhetoric of “taking back control” or, more recently, Boris Johnson talking of “liberation” in Munich, is just revolting, and hurt many of us.

Later I moved to London and met more fellow Europeans, English, Irish and Scottish friends who befriended me, hired me, worked with me, and never questioned my legitimacy in studying, working in their country.

I remember looking back at France which I felt was turning its back to centuries of welcoming traditions, thinking, it’s not like that here in the UK, and that’s why I’ll stay.

After Kent we moved to London, that big, smoky, wonderful melting pot filled with people who were so different from me and yet so similar, who were able to take a chance on me and give me a job based on my skills and experience and not on the country I was from and the strength of a visa application.

Nowhere ever felt more like home than the UK did.

I bought the ‘Very British Problems’ book at St Pancras as a welcome present to myself. Since then I’ve improved my small talk skills and have learnt how to queue in a straight line, which for a Frenchwoman is just plain weird. I still talk loudly about politics and religion or relationships, which is often seen as rude, but I tut at people who stand on the left of the escalator, and I do run out of “sorry’s” and “thank you’s” when several consecutive doors are being held for me, so: I’m adapting.

I fell in love with this country, and saw myself live here for a long time, and now I just don’t know. Can we ever go back from the terrifying racism and xenophobia that the referendum campaign unleashed? Can we heal as a country? What makes me a “good immigrant”? What grants me the right to stay? As a French woman married to an Italian living in England, what will happen if we have children here? Which passport should they hold on to, to secure an open future not dictated by renewed borders?

I reflect on my time at Kent with a lot of tenderness, a time where a Britain that was truly Great welcomed me and my European friends with open arms, and was rich with the people it hosted. I also look at it with pride and hope that the current French, Italian, Portuguese, Polish studying there now will make the most of their time there, and form part of a generation which will fight back decades of political and social regression and will be working hard for more open, inclusive world which values exchange and yes, freedom to travel, study abroad, get married, have children and work wherever you want in the world.

Darren Griffin: Celebrating a milestone with a good deed

Genetic disease affects 1 in 50 babies, can lead to stillbirth, miscarriage, pregnancy complications and IVF failure. Young researchers working in this field drive scientific progress in this area. One of the ways in which we can promote their careers is by supporting them to visit other labs, to attend conferences and to present their fascinating research.

Sadly, funds are all too short for allowing them to do this, and so Darren Griffin decided to fundraise to support these young people in enhancing their scientific careers in this fascinating and worthwhile area of science.

Darren recently celebrated his 50th birthday, and, instead of presents, asked friends, family and collaborators to donate to his cause.  He said:

“The idea came from the fact that I was having a big birthday party and didn’t want my house filled up with presents from every guest I was inviting.  Bringing opportunities to young scientists is one of the most rewarding parts of my job and I thought there could be no better way to divert any monetary good wishes to and even better good cause.  The just giving page was excellent and I was overwhelmed by the generosity of my friends.  The money is already about to be put to good use with three of my lab going to a conference in Florence later in the year.”

To date, the fund has exceeded its initial target of £4,000 and continues to grow.  You can visit the page at

Alumna Miss Africa Great Britain fundraises for Nigeria

Alumna Sarah Jegede, and Miss Africa Great Britain recently got in touch to give us an update on the projects that she is currently working on.

I am undertaking a charity project in aid of the students of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in rural Ifofin, in Osun State, Nigeria. St Mary’s is the oldest school in Ilesha, and one of the poorest schools too. St Mary’s school is in need of a new school sign board and the students are in dire need of stationery. I am raising funds in aid of this cause to provide a new school sign board, stationery, and school bags for the kids. This project is very dear to my heart as I have always wanted to help children in poverty, and winning Miss Africa GB has given me the opportunity to make a difference in lives that are often neglected. When I applied to Miss Africa GB, I was drawn by the amount of charity work that the organisation carries out. My desire to help children in poverty, particularly in Nigeria, was what drove me to win, even when I was tired or felt discouraged during the competition.

There are over 15 million children in Nigeria aged 5-15 who are not in education and it is mostly due to poverty. Their families cannot afford to send them to school and sustain their academic needs financially. This includes school fees but also supplies that are needed for school, such as books, stationery, school uniforms, and school bags. These children are forced to work on the streets, and it affects their mental and social development. They end up underachieving academically, and even worse – many eventually quit the school system because the financial challenges are too much to bear. They often grow up to live in poverty, and their own children inherit this struggle and are forced into the labour force at young ages. You would agree with me that this heartbreaking cycle must end.

In aid of St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, we are hosting a fundraising gala on the 29th of April at The Ripple Centre in Barking. Guests will be treated to an evening of stunning entertainment, great music, dancing, world-class food and drinks with the opportunity to win a wealth of exquisite money can’t buy prizes and experiences. The event will begin at 6pm with guests walking the Red carpet and taking brilliant photographs.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go towards providing bags and stationery for the 200 elementary School students of this school.

To find out more, you can visit Sarah’s page.

Alumnus Matthew O’Hare: 5 years on

A former student of Kent accredited campus London Contemporary Dance School (LCDS) and recently recognised future leader in the ‘40 under 40’ (Scottish Business News), International Executive Matthew O’Hare took some time out of his busy schedule to tell us more about his memories of studying through Kent and shared what he has been working on since graduating with a BA (Hons) (2011) and a PGDip (2012) in Contemporary Dance.

It’s been a whirlwind almost 5 years since my journey with LCDS came to a close and what a lot has happened in that time. I now work with in the Scottish Government’s international economic development arm – Scottish Development International (SDI) – delivering senior Ministerial visits overseas.

As an Executive, I am tasked with maximising trade and investment visits aligning with the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government (PfG) on a global footprint. Core to this, is working with in-market specialists across our Global Network (SDI has 29 overseas offices, either sole operations or co-habiting with FCO) and sector specialists delivering briefings, high-quality event management, speeches and media/comms/marketing activity.

I’m also involved in a number of external projects including the US State Department’s Youth Leadership Programme YLUK, am fortunate enough to be mentored at CEO level of a major public sector company and most recently received Ministerial approval to take up a Non-Executive Director role as a Board Member of Scotland’s largest education region – Lanarkshire – where I sit on the regional strategic body.

So how, you may be thinking, does an Executive working in the area of Economic Development wind up in such a high-profile role with a background in Dance? The correlation between my work experience and education is actually a lot closer than you may assume. I had several Universities I was choosing between and I remember being so drawn to LCDS for its reputation for high-quality teaching, opportunities for collaboration and feedback from students on the skill-set they left with that served them well, regardless of the profession they pursued. I was fortunate to be put forward by my lecturers to coordinate graduate touring across the UK and Europe. This was really my first experience doing what I now call ’Stakeholder Engagement’, coordinating international events and really opened up my mind to the skill-set I could extract and apply in almost any sector.

And I have – my professional break came through the Commonwealth Graduate Fund gaining employment as a Producer on the Commonwealth Games Culture Programme. Since working in Local Authority; I have developed events and strategic relations experience also working in the Education sector, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, before taking up my current position at the beginning of last year.

My earliest ambitions go back to an enthusiastic young man thriving off passionate environments. Platforms where you can share a genuine drive to make a change. Parallel to my dance training was an abiding intrigue in diplomacy, politics and international relations and to those that know me it’s little surprise I’ve taken the route I have to where I am now. I take great joy in the networks I operate in and various roles I have doing my part to help make a difference.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I would impart to recent or upcoming graduates, is to proactively look out a sounding board to talk through your ambitions, challenges and if you can – someone outside your direct employment. Experienced strategic guidance is gold dust. Amongst the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given by my mentor is “Learn to Walk before you Run”. Ambition is great and don’t ever loose your core purpose of what drives you and where you want to go. But don’t miss out on enjoying the experiences you already have around you, take the time to hone your craft, build your networks and importantly reputation – these are all vital exercises and in the long term will pay off far more than jumping on to the next project or job before you’ve really drawn all you can from your current circumstances.

The immediate few years after graduating are by far the most fast-paced, exciting, challenging and potentially memorable in your life adventure. They are a time to build your resilience, follow what genuinely makes you tick and by putting in the effort to invest in yourself can be truly rewarding. Many of my former University classmates often remark how it is many years after graduating that lessons our lecturers imparted come to fruition – this is so true and I would implore each student currently at or coming to a close in their studies through Kent to draw as much from your lecturers and fellow classmates as you can. You never now when and just how useful this training can be.

You can connect with Matthew via LinkedIn.

‘The History Sphere’ by Katy Chalk (Darwin, 1997)

Alumna Kathy Elkins has had a varied career; starting with nursing, moving on to NHS administration and then studying at Kent and finally achieving her Masters in 2003.

She has now become an author (pen name Katy Chalk) and written a children’s fantasy novel called ‘The History Sphere’.   As an alumna of the Classical Archaeology and comparative Literature Studies programme, Kathy believes that learning history should be fun.

Consequently, the story of ‘The History Sphere’ follows the malevolent theft of five discs of pivotal history from the titular ‘History Sphere’ by an evil warlock, intent on altering world history.  Only eleven-year-old Olivia and her dog Archie can stop him!

Kathy now lives in Maidstone, has two grown up children and three grandchildren, including Olivia, who is the heroine of the story.

The novel is available through Amazon and local distributors.