Donor Day 2022
With great anticipation, many donors were welcomed back in College on Sunday 22 May for Donor Day 2022. Though it’s normally an annual event, because of the pandemic it last happened in 2019, and the excitement of gathering once again was shared by everyone in attendance. Guests arrived for champagne and elderflower pressé in the Central Hall of the Old Divinity School. The abundance of colourful attire and cheery floral prints reflected the quintessentially gorgeous May afternoon, and the doors to Corfield Court were flung open for indoor and outdoor socialising. Longtime friends enjoyed face-to-face conversations again, and new friendships were established.
When the gong sounded for lunch, the group made its way through the Great Gate and First Court into Hall, a stroll that brought warm reminiscence of College days for the alumni in attendance. The Hall had been beautifully prepared to welcome guests in that familiar yet unceasingly striking setting.
Before the meal began, the St John’s Voices choir lined the balcony to sing a rich and soothing grace, Mendelssohn’s ‘Denn er hat seinen engeln’. It was a breathtaking beginning to a relaxed and enjoyable lunch. As ever, the catering team provided attentive service alongside delicious starters, mains and desserts.
After lunch, the Master, Heather Hancock, welcomed everyone and thanked them for their generosity and support for the College. She then introduced the student speaker, Vishal Gupta (2020). Vishal is a second–year Mathematics student who has benefited from Johnian generosity in multiple ways. He was the winner of the Pythagoras Prize for Mathematics at the beginning of his first year, and he is the recipient of the Corby Bursary and a Studentship. Vishal is already paying it forward by helping maths students from disadvantaged backgrounds, serving as a College Ambassador and President of the St John’s maths society (Adams Society) and organising the UK Integration Bee for maths undergrads around the world.
Vishal shared a genuine and enjoyable account of his journey to Cambridge and how he has been impacted by the generosity of Donors:
The financial assistance has covered my maintenance costs and allowed me to stay in Cambridge for a summer research project and to attend otherwise inaccessible events such as the upcoming May Ball. At Cambridge I’ve been able to experience many things which I never thought I would – sports such as kayaking, croquet and golf, hosting nationwide maths competitions and even giving speeches!Vishal Gupta
After lunch some guests popped into the Student Art and Photography Exhibition in the library and explored the College grounds, while most returned to the Old Divinity School for the afternoon sessions in the Main Lecture Theatre.
The first session was led by Sharon Peacock, Professor of Public Health and Microbiology in the Department of Medicine, Executive Director of the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium and Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences. She led the group through her work on genome sequencing before the pandemic, during the throes of it and in current and future research. Her team’s work enabled the UK to better and more quickly identify, manage and prevent the spread of variants. She truly has been one of the UK’s heroes during the pandemic! Her session can be viewed at the end of this post.
The second session was an interview of the Master by third-year student Paula Espada Blanco (2019). Paula, a Human, Social and Political Sciences student, is a Studentship and Bursary recipient and was President of the Junior Common Room (JCR) in 2021. She asked the Master about her experience taking the helm of St John’s during a pandemic, what she hopes to achieve in her years as Master and what makes this College a unique community. Scroll down to view the interview at the end of this post.
The event ended back in the Central Hall of the Old Divinity School, where guests gathered for afternoon tea and sweet treats. Some took advantage of already being in College and stayed for the Evensong service in Chapel that evening. After a full day of reconnecting with other guests, engaging and informative sessions, and taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of St John’s again, the next Donor Day is already greatly anticipated!
Photography by Ben Minnaar at www.benminnaarphotography.com