In the years between Alumni Weekends, the North American Office hosts a series of smaller Oxford in North America events around the continent. This year's road trip found us on both coasts with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, as well as college representatives and Oxford academics, including Professor John Wheater, Head of the Physics Department, and Vicki Nash of the Oxford Internet Institute. As always, it was exhilarating meeting and speaking with Oxonians from around the country. These events offer irrefutable proof that Oxford produces the best and brightest graduates.
Our first stop on the West Coast with Professor Richardson was Los Angeles, where we held a drinks reception on 4 April in the beautiful Los Angeles Country Club. We were joined by almost 200 Oxonians and friends for drinks and canapés. The Vice-Chancellor made brief remarks about recent strides taken by the University, and about the promise of more success even in an uncertain future. Attendees also enjoyed the gorgeous Southern California-evening weather while mingling with fellow alumni and friends old and new.
Following a quick flight up the coast, Professor Richardson hosted a reception in Palo Alto on 5 April. The group of nearly 200 Oxford graduates gathered to share an evening drink in the Garden Court Hotel, located in the heart of Silicon Valley. The Vice-Chancellor’s remarks were again well-received; as was her announcement that the 2018 Alumni Weekend will be held in San Francisco on 6 and 7 April. We are greatly looking forward to bringing the Alumni Weekend to the West Coast, and we know that the Oxonians in our new host city are rather excited to receive us.
Professor Louise Richardson speaks in Palo Alto. Photo: Albert Benichou, DeNoise Studio
After our brief time on the West Coast, it was time to head to New York City for our half-day academic program on 8 April at the New York Hilton Midtown. We welcomed over 215 guests for an afternoon that included lunch and two academic panels. Having not held a large-scale academic program in New York since our 2014 Alumni Weekend, we were excited to see our local Oxonians, and heard from several attendees that it was good to have us back.
Steven Isenberg, Former Publisher of New York Newsday (Worcester, 1964), interviewed the Vice-Chancellor over dessert. The wide-ranging conversation covered the importance of social mobility, the implications of Brexit, Oxford's world-class tutorial system, and the fact that Oxford has been “doing it better and longer than anyone else.” Following lunch, Mark Damazer, CBE, Master of St Peter’s College, moderated a panel discussion that took a very timely look at “The Global Economy in the New Political Reality.” Damazer was joined by Matthew Bishop (Jesus, 1983), Senior Editor of The Economist Group, Michelle Clayman (St Anne’s, 1972), Founder, Managing Partner & Chief Investment Officer of New Amsterdam Partners LLC, and Neil Simpkins (Lady Margaret Hall, 1984), Senior Managing Director of Blackstone, in a conversation that was supposed to set the world right in seventy minutes. We did not quite make it, but the conversation proved to be an invigorating and surprisingly optimistic look at the course the global economy is on and could be on in the future.
Our second and final panel of the day saw Bodley’s Librarian Richard Ovenden join in a conversation on Shakespeare’s First Folio with Sir Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College, and Professor Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College. This session, which attendee Mark Goodacre later tweeted “alone [was] worth the price of admission,” began with some background information on the Bodleian’s copies of the First Folio before moving into a lively conversation among the panelists. Sir Jonathan Bate reiterated the everlasting importance of Shakespeare and his work by reminding attendees that one cannot be ignorant of Shakespeare, and discussed his collaboration with Sir Ian McKellen on an app that will help make Shakespeare even more accessible to the general public, with a particular emphasis on students. (Bate told the group that students helped test the app and were so engrossed in Sir Ian’s performance that they did not even use the feature that would help explain the text.) Professor Smith recalled how exciting it was to help verify that an alleged copy of the First Folio found on the Isle of Bute was, in fact, legitimate. The crowd was clearly enraptured by hearing these three experts discuss Shakespeare, and we were delighted to host such an invigorating panel.
Our April tour was a rousing success, and we look forward to seeing all of you again at future Oxford events in North America! Please be sure to keep an eye out for more news about our 2018 Alumni Weekend in North America, and we hope to see you in San Francisco.
Keep the conversation going and connect with our speakers on Twitter!
Matthew Bishop: @mattbish
Richard Ovenden: @richove
Sir Jonathan Bate: @provbate
Emma Smith: @OldFortunatus
Banner photo features Mark Damazer, Matthew Bishop, Michelle Clayman and Neil Simpkins. Credit: Nathaniel Whitfield Photography