One of the University’s very first employees, Cynthia Hawes, died in the Kent and Canterbury Hospital just before Christmas, having suffered a stroke at her care home in Wye. Many Former Staff Association (FSA) colleagues will remember her as a diminutive but feisty lady, who was always kind and encouraging while letting people know exactly what she thought about… anything.
Cynthia’s first contact with the University was in April 1963 when she was interviewed for the post of secretary to the first Vice-Chancellor, Geoffrey Templeman, at Westgate House in St Dunstan’s Street, which was all there was of the University at that time. Having worked for the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (as it then was), Cynthia was ideally qualified for the post, and she was duly appointed. As the Vice-Chancellor’s secretary, Cynthia was based first in Westgate House and then at Beverley Farm before moving to the Registry building when it was completed in 1970. After Geoffrey Templeman retired in 1980, Cynthia continued to work for the new Vice-Chancellor, David Ingram, until transferring to the Graduate Studies Office as an Assistant Registrar. She spent the early years of her retirement caring for her widowed father, who lived near to her in Harkness Drive.
Away from her professional duties, Cynthia was a keen rock climber in her youth and later a dedicated hill walker until arthritis curtailed these activities. She was a long-serving singer in the University Choir and the Canterbury Choral Society and a regular and devoted worshipper at the Cathedral. After retiring, she trained as a volunteer welcomer at the Cathedral and spent her Friday mornings patiently explaining to visitors – often in passable French, though she was not a linguist – what it was they were looking at. She was particularly interested in St Gabriel’s Chapel in the crypt and knew a great deal about the murals there.
Cynthia was born in North London in 1934 and spent the war years as a child in Barnet. She was a pupil at the Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School in Barnet before going to Exeter University where she read history. She never married, but she was very close to her father and brother, and she had a wide circle of friends. She has a richly deserved place in the collective memory of the University as one of its founder members whose job placed her at the very centre of all that was happening in those early years. May she rest in peace.
Contributors: Mary Fox, Jane Millyard, John Butler