At the beginning of the new term as OSA President, I was looking forward to working with officers and members to promote the Association and its online presence and events, and to maintaining and strengthening its connection with the University. I also planned to consider our Bilingual policy more formally. In Wales, 2020 opened with storms, and flooding, causing difficulties for many events and travel plans. But then the mood started to change, and suddenly we faced a new unimagined challenge. Lockdown. I am so pleased to report that despite this, the Aber Spirit has prevailed within the OSA, with the Branches continuing to keep in touch with their members, and adapting their usual programmes to keep spirits up and to fundraise, and many former students sharing memories on the Alumni Facebook page.
At the beginning of the year, I attended Founders’ Day’s blustery walk along the Prom, then breakfast in Old College, with presentations from the Vice Chancellor and Bryn Jones of Penparcau Community Forum. Their focus was on the Old College Project. It was good to hear the OSA’s contribution to the Project noted by Vice Chancellor. Steve Lawrence has represented us on the Old College Project Board, and I have gone along from time to time, and we’ve been consulted about Old College Project fundraising campaigns, met some of the Student Callers, and provided some text for an item in Prom magazine. There was a terrifically exciting and emotional atmosphere on the 14 January in Old College, at a breakfast meeting to publicise the Old College Project Board’s announcement of Lottery Funding Success. Since then I’ve met with Project Manager Jim O’Rourke to visit the proposed new events and office spaces for the OSA. It will be wonderful to have a home in the refurbished building. Good progress is being made with plans despite the lockdown.
I had a meeting with the Vice Chancellor, Professor Elizabeth Treasure in February, where she stressed her support for the OSA, and her appreciation of our support for the University. She obviously greatly values the generosity of the Old Students, and particularly noted Peter Hancock’s ongoing support of his Scholarship. We also discussed the positive developments with management of the Penglais Grounds, and what plans there might be for the relocation of the Bell in the Bell Tower, which was donated by the OSA, as it transpires that the tower disguises a flue, which is no longer required. My original request was whether the Bell might be rung at Graduation or other University events, but it doesn’t sound as if it works safely any more.
Another milestone for the University in February was the official launch of the Aberystwyth University School of Veterinary Science which will have a home on Penglais Campus. A Head and Chair of Department has been appointed and the first students are being recruited for admission in 2021.
General University Liaison opportunities continued with my attendance at the final event in the Interpol Centenary Celebrations - Professor Jan Ruzicka’s lecture on “Reinventing the world: Lord Davies and International Politics”. Jan was in charge of the Interpol side of the centenary celebrations at Reunion 2019, and was very complimentary about the OSA’s role in helping to plan the Reunion. Discussions opened with Professor Chris Price in 2020 about the June OSA Reunion, and celebration of 50 years of Computer Science have had to be cancelled in the circumstances.
In November our annual OSA Remembrance Service organised by the Aberystwyth Branch took place in Old College. A short service and refreshments in Seddon Room were well attended by representatives of the University including the Director of Welsh Language and External Engagement Rhodri Llwyd Morgan and representatives of the Development of Alumni Relations Office. I was lucky enough to attend OSA Cardiff’s Christmas lunch, and was invited to say a few words afterwards. It was a pleasure to draw attention to the success of the Archives Transcriptions project initiated by Cardiff Branch, and we hope to celebrate this further in better times. Donations for the OSA and University Archives are always gratefully received, and there are further opportunities to digitise resources, and make them more widely available. I enjoyed a presentation at the University arranged by OSA Archivist Julie Archer, about the options of sharing archival material for research and publicity through Wikipedia. Our online presence continues to develop thanks to the efforts of Editor Graham Colley, Steve Hasson, Julie Finch and Louise Perkins.
The University has continued to keep in touch with the OSA during the Lockdown, updating us on its own activities and plans. Graduation is expected to be a huge event in 2021, and we will be encouraged to participate in the many ceremonies for the two cohorts and Fellowships. We are being invited to submit ideas for ways in which to celebrate Aberystwyth University 150 years. And we can rely on our Treasurer Judith Yeadon and Assistant Huw to steer us in contributing financial support. So although many of the events at which we would usually have shared a platform have been postponed or cancelled, we are looking at other ways of sharing experiences online. Our first ever General Committee via Zoom is an excellent example of our determination to keep going, and the expertise of our Hon Secretary Steve Hasson.
My sincere thanks are due to all OSA and Branch Officers and Members for their continuing hard work and support for the Association and each other, in good times and more difficult ones. I look forward to keeping in touch, and meeting in person again once it is safer to do so.