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Johnian magazine issue 49, autumn 2022

Letters – what you’re saying

2 min read

1981/82 reunion dinner

It meant a great deal to me to be welcomed back to College this summer as one of the first women to have become a member of the College and for our contribution to the history of St John’s to be recognised and celebrated.

I came to St John’s after four very happy years studying History at UCL and for a PGCE at the Institute of Education. I was one of three UCL 1980 graduates who followed our undergraduate supervisor, Dr Peter Clarke, when he returned to St John’s College as a Fellow and lecturer. Students in London face many practical challenges such as finding somewhere to live and managing significant daily journeys, and I welcomed the security, friendliness and comfort of moving into my room on the top floor of the Warehouse with six of the nine (or was it twelve?) other women who matriculated in 1981. It was a great privilege to be among such a lively and inspiring international group of fellow scholars and to make deep and longlasting friendships. I enjoyed the atmosphere there which, at times, resembled a 1930s boarding school. The very heavy snow falls in early December 1981 only added to that sense of living somewhere magical and extraordinary!

Heather Hancock (left) standing next to Mary Short (right) in the garden at St John's.
Mary Short (right) with the Master, Heather Hancock. Image credit: Rich Marsham

I had been president of the History Society at UCL and had worked hard to create a sense of departmental identity for fellow students and welcomed the chance to do something similar by throwing myself into the SBR. As a committee we worked hard to organise social events such as garden parties and pancake evenings to provide graduate students with opportunities to meet others. I also represented the graduates within College. I am not sure that I achieved a great deal in this respect but remember arguing successfully for there to be more female loos in the Fisher Building when it was being planned, and for Council to provide for a second glass of wine at the twice-weekly BA table in Hall!

I am sure I cannot have been alone in feeling some trepidation about returning to College after such a long time, but I need not have worried: everyone I met was warm and welcoming and ready to share experiences and their appreciation of the opportunities we had all enjoyed. I was particularly pleased to meet the Master and to catch up with my former tutor, Dr George Reid, and to hear about the ambitious and exciting plans for the future of the College. I have never regretted my decision to continue my studies in Cambridge: I gained a great deal by studying for a PhD and was fortunate to be given financial support by St John’s for a term as I completed my thesis. I am very grateful for all of this and to have had the opportunity to rekindle my relationship with St John’s through the generous hospitality provided this July.

Mary Short (1981)

Express your thoughts on this issue, tell us about your latest projects or share anything else the Johnian community may like to know about. You can email your letters to with the subject ‘Johnian letter’. Letters may be edited for length and are published at the discretion of the Editor.