Category Archives: Love at Kent

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.

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.

The Footstep Tales – Jess and James

What is your Kent story?

I am an alumna of Kent, having graduated in 2008 after studying Classical & Archaeological Studies and Comparative Literature in the School of European Culture and Languages. During my time as a student I worked on the alumni telephone campaign, in the Eliot staff room, Rutherford dining hall and in Mungos and then a couple of years after graduating I returned to a job in the Templeman library. A temp job brought me back to SECL in 2012 where I found a permanent position and I currently work as the Senior Programme Co-ordinator for the two subjects I studied whilst I was a student. On my first day as a temp I met a shy, thoughtful boy working in the finance section of SECL and long story short, I married him.

Why did you get a brick?

James and I were married on 10th September 2015 at Lake Garda in Italy. Our brick was a complete surprise and was given to us as a wedding gift by the administrative team in SECL who I am lucky enough to consider not only colleagues but friends. They knew I was an alumna and that Kent (and SECL specifically) had shaped an enormous part of who I was, as well as bringing James and I together. I was touched by their kindness and thoughtfulness and will be forever grateful for now being part of the Kent landscape.

What is your favourite Kent memory?

This is a very difficult question but I think the sense of community I felt within my department amongst both students and teachers would be the part that stayed with me. I don’t think anyone should underestimate how crucial it is to have the support of one’s peers and mentors through difficult times.

I am fortunate enough to still be a part of Kent and involved in that community even now – I am still making memories most recently as part of the University of Kent Players where I am having a fantastic time and making lifelong friends.



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.