Love at Kent – Janet Jackson and Stewart Kempster

A celebration of the Engagement of Janet Jackson and Stewart Kempster on Graduation Day, 12 July 1968. Photograph taken before the Graduation Ball (which accounts for the non-standard student clothing) behind what is now the Mandela Building. From left to right: Roger Mitchell, Politics & Government, Eliot Graham Austin, Economic & Social History, Rutherford Caroline Green, Mathematics, Eliot John Platt, Economics, Rutherford Marilyn Platt (née Palmer), Sociology, Eliot Paul Jordan, Physics, Eliot Jill Jordan (née Sharman), Economic & social History, Eliot Janet Kempster (née Jackson), Head Housekeeper, Eliot Stewart Kempster, Mathematics, Eliot David Mogg’s Guest David Mogg, Chemistry, Eliot Carmela Green, Richard Hackworth’s Guest Richard Hackworth, Mathematics, Eliot Ann Thurman (née Pearce), Matron, Eliot John Thurman, Postgraduate Chemistry, Eliot

It was January 1968 and student Stewart Kempster had arranged the visit of the BBC to record UKC’s participation in the radio quiz programme ‘Third Degree’.   Things did not go well as a bomb warning was received whilst the recording was being made.   Everything stopped and the area around Eliot College Common Room, where the event was being held, was cleared.   The college staff were involved in the evacuation too, and, when all was back to normal, he was invited back by the Head Housekeeper, Jan Jackson, to her flat (now part of the Mandela Building) for coffee.   And that’s where and when it all started.

Jan’s flat proved the ideal place for preparing for the Mathematics finals and meant that, despite lodging in Whitstable, he now had a bolthole on campus with the benefits of domestic assistance and preferential dining as Jan was responsible for many things including food service.  (The effects are still visible in Stewart’s silhouette!)

Graduation Day was the next step forward as it was then that they were engaged.   A Sherry Party (don’t forget this was 1968) was held for a number of friends on the grass outside the flat to celebrate their engagement before everyone joined the other main event of the night, the Graduation Ball.    They were married in 1970 and have a son and daughter and three granddaughters.  Apart from a two-year posting to the USA, they have lived in Kent since getting married, and are working hard to reduce the length of their bucket list.

So not all relationships formed at the University have been between students, and it is interesting to note that John Thurman who was researching his doctorate in chemistry married Ann Pearce who was Eliot College Matron;  both are in the photograph.