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A very special year

16 September 2008

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eric Thomas, looks forward to the University’s centenary.

Every academic year has its excitements. This is certainly true of the one that’s just started, because in May 2009 the University will be 100 years old.

While many of us become less keen on birthdays as we grow older, it would be wrong to let the University’s centenary slip by without proper acknowledgement. So we’ve come up with what we think are genuinely interesting and meaningful ways of celebrating – and not just in May, but more or less throughout 2009.

If we’ve got it right, the year will have an extra dimension for all who work and study here, and will also offer something worthwhile to our alumni, our friends and the city.

As far as one-off events are concerned, there will be about a dozen centenary lectures during 2009 on important themes by highly regarded speakers. They will all be free and open to the public. There will also be exhibitions, sporting events and music. And the Centenary Alumni Weekend from 3 to 5 July, which will be aimed at students and staff as well as alumni, is shaping up to be the biggest and best reunion that has ever taken place here.

Events come and go, of course, but we also intend to mark the centenary in ways that are lasting. In December 2008, we will publish a major book of essays, creative writing and stunning pictures. Virtually all of it – including a centenary crossword, a poem and even a recipe – has been specially commissioned from distinguished people with some connection to the University. It will be unique and produced to a very high standard. In addition, in May 2009, we will publish a smart, slim volume about the University’s history.

Furthermore, following a lengthy and fascinating process of artist selection under expert guidance, we are commissioning an important piece of public art for the University precinct. We will also transform the grassed area at the Wills Memorial Building into a wonderful garden that will complement the architecture of the tower and provide a new asset for people to enjoy.

A number of colleagues from across the University have been working for months to bring these and other celebratory projects to fruition. At the same time, a great deal of effort has gone into establishing the ambitious Centenary Campaign. This is aimed at raising £100 million from philanthropic sources over the next few years to help secure and build on the University’s many strengths.

The additional funds will support a variety of projects that have been identified through extensive consultation and that will help create the conditions in which learning, discovery and enterprise can continue to thrive and even reach greater heights. There will be a Campaign launch in January as the University’s first century is drawing to an end, the second is on the horizon and our focus is firmly on the future.

More information about both the centenary celebrations and the Centenary Campaign will come your way soon. In the meantime, I hope the new academic year gets off to a flying start for every one of our students and members of staff.

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