Vanbrugh College

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Vanburgh’s 50th celebration Weekend

Thank you to all of the alumni who came back to Vanbrugh College to help celebrate the 50th year of Vanbrugh College.  There were 198 volunteers – both alumni and students – who all mucked in to help make the event so special.  The weather was perfect with lots of sunshine, the food trucks were great, and the music amazing.

Alumni enjoyed reminiscing about their time at Vanbrugh and the current students loved hearing about boating on the lake, fierce competition on the sports field, romance in the piazza, and antics in V-Bar.  “Donkey Zoo” headlined the outdoor stage, and a long list of talented alumni and current students performed over 3 stages.  A big thank you to each and every student and alumni performer or volunteer.

Thank you also to both Allen Warren and Barry Thomas (previous Provost and Head of College) for helping host an additional meal in town and a country walk respectively.

And a special thank you to Georgina Heath and Steve Burton to pulling so many musicians together and for making sure all the music equipment functioned.  The weekend would not have happened without your expertise and connections.

Here are some photos to enjoy of the weekend!   If you have any good ones you took yourselves please send them on to the college to be put in the archives (please label if you can).

We look forward to seeing many of you at future Alumni Events – please join the Vanbrugh Alumni FB Group if you haven’t already.


Head of College News

Professor Andrew Parsons

We are sad to announce that our Current Head of College, Professor Andrew Parsons, has decided to step down at the end of this year.

Andy has been a fabulous Head of College who was instrumental in developing both the VaKs Initiative (Vanbrugh Acts of Kindness) and the Vanbassador Internships, students love his enthusiasm which you can enjoy in this twitter video clip of our last Arrivals Day Welcome Talk!

Andy has enjoyed engaging with students over cake and coffee, and working with the other Colleges to improve the system for every student. His support and help for the 50th Celebration was immense – he even knew the best baker in Yorkshire for our beautiful Anniversary Cake!

He will continue to be involved with the College as a College fellow so we will continue to benefit from his enthusiasm for the Colleges at the University of York. We wish him well as he continues in his very busy work in his own department as both an extremely popular and creative Professor and as the Admissions Tutor for Chemistry.

Interview with our Alumni:  Sarah van der Hoven

Member of Vanbrugh from 1967 to 1970

I: “What did you study while you were at York?”

S: “I studied History-Philosophy Equal. I was a Dutch national and living with my parents in Buenos Aires where I had completed my O and A levels at an English school, and had worked for a year and a half as an unqualified, untrained primary school teacher at the same school, before I was accepted at York. I was able to go to York for an interview, because my father worked for KLM, the airline.

I remember being interviewed by professor Gwyn Williams, and Peter Rycraft for the History department and professor Atkinson for Philosophy, which I knew nothing about but which sounded good in the brochure! The interview took place in the bowels of Kings Manor, at that time the HQ for History. After it I walked the walls of York for hours, trying to get rid of a tension headache. Peter Rycraft then made a special trip to my bed and breakfast to tell me that the University would make me an offer, but that Prof Williams hadn’t wanted me to leave without knowing it. contribute to his own knowledge!

I got married immediately after graduating, in Bangkok, where my parents had been transferred, and where I met my husband, another Dutchman, set on a career in international hotels. We started married life in Singapore, then moved to Sydney, where we had two sons. We were already looking after my baby brother, who joined us in Singapore after my mother died. After five years of Sydney, and becoming naturalised Australians, we moved to Hong Kong, where I went back to Uni and paid work. Our last move was from there to Adelaide, where we have been since 1980”.

I: “Many have noted that Vanbrugh feels to them like a true community; a family almost. What was your experience of being part of the college?”

S: “Vanbrugh had just opened as a college in October ‘67 and I was allocated the second room in the second corridor on the ground floor – the one immediately past the first kitchen area. Yes, we were a community, because we were it: the first ones there! We were segregated, sort of: most of us in the first two corridors were girls. Beyond that were another lot for boys.

(Cont.) There was, however, one bloke in the end room of ours, but it was a bigger room and he was doing post-grad work. He may have had his own shower; I never saw him in our communal bathroom. Rumour had it that the doors between the corridors were supposed to be locked at night (there was a key in a small glass case on the back of the door), to appease the Archbishop of York. They never were.

The history department was based in Vanbrugh by then, so there was something about being able to roll out of bed five minutes before an eleven o’clock lecture in the same building.”

I: “It’s the same now! Are there any special memories that stick out from your time at Vanbrugh?”

S: “I remember our porters as very friendly and helpful, adding to the pleasant atmosphere because they were genuinely concerned about our wellbeing.

The food in the dining room was nutritious and filling, if not exciting. Joining friends or strangers at the long tables was always good for a chat or finding out what was going on. We had four college dining rooms to choose from, but somehow only our own seemed like ‘home’.

I seldom used the junior common room – that was colonised by the political types. I only lived in during my first year. After that my friend and I found a lovely landlady who wrote historical novels, and moved into the city. We used Kings Manor to study, often late into the night, because of looming essay deadlines. I used a portable typewriter for mine. But Vanbrugh remained my base, and I was annoyed enough to demand to be put back there when in my final year the powers that be allocated me to a new college just opening that year, in order to spread the student experience around a bit”.

I: “Do you feel your time at Vanbrugh College has benefited you in your life? If so, how?”

S: “Yes. I learned how to operate independently, without my family, in a foreign country, and how to do so successfully. Both living in, and being associated with Vanbrugh, gave me the security and confidence needed for that. I am very interested in the idea of campus life within a University, and I believe the (then) English local authority system of providing grants to study at a university at the opposite end of the country, away from home, is a good one. Here in Australia, most students study at a local university and have two jobs to keep themselves going, while living at home. My sons did.

They enjoyed their time at Uni, made good friends, like I did, joined societies and learned from that, as I did, spent more time in the Uni bar than I ever did, but I think they missed out on that indefinable something that comes with being a member of a smaller unit, such as a residential college. There may be a Master’s or a PhD in working out what that is”.

I: “Any favourite memories of being at the University of York?  Any memories of going into town and the interactions between the town and students during your time here?  Favourite student haunts?”

S: “One of the best things I did in the first week at York was join the film society. It morphed into the Film and TV society very quickly, and we were given access to the CCTV system once a week, to produce and broadcast our own show: a news and current affairs type production.  We went out live at lunch time, and I learned very quickly how to read the news. We spent time listening to various news outlets, including the BBC international service and Radio Tirana (for an alternative viewpoint) on shortwave radio in order to collect the news. Which I typed out on that portable typewriter. We all knew how to operate the cameras and sound mixer, and in my final year I helped out with some University productions as well. People watched in the dining rooms and common rooms – and lecture rooms when there was nothing else on.

The university and its students were welcomed in York; wearing our range and brown scarves usually got us a welcome and sometimes a discount. We were new, and good for the economics. I lived in York for two years, first in Gillygate, in a house called appropriately ‘the Netherlands’, and then followed my landlady to Siward street, which was closer to Uni. I used the bus to get around locally, and boyfriends’ cars (when they had them) to go further afield.

Favourite haunts? Kings Manor for studying. The lake for lying around doing nothing but listen to the peacocks and admire those exotic ducks. And the Henry Moore sculpture. The pub in Heslington for drinking and coming to astounding insights. The all-purpose shop in Heslington for stationery. Other people’s rooms for endless debates, talks, chats. The walls for walks. I joined the archaeological dig in the crypt for a day to help out and discovered a Roman pig’s tooth. At least that’s what they told me it was!”

— By Dani Buckley, Stage 2 History Student, fellow Vanbrugh College member and Vanbrugh College Intern.

Finally, a big thank you to our 2017-2018 College Tutors!

Vanbrugh College Tutors

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