was the making of me,” Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw has said. “I
spent four extremely happy years here,
and I owe the University an inestimable
debt of gratitude.
“I was struck the
very first day by Leeds’ classlessness,
by the fact that where you came from,
what school you had been to, simply
didn’t matter. What mattered instead
was who you felt you were.
“I learnt a lot
of law, and I learnt even more about
life. It was vibrant - intellectually,
politically and socially. And the great
thing is that Leeds has built on the
strengths I enjoyed in the sixties,
and is even better today.”
Time and again, Jack Straw’s
words are echoed by our graduates in
all walks of life, all over the world,
and at all levels. I’ve met a
number now, recent graduates and some
very powerful people at the top of their
profession. What they all have in common
is the high regard in which they hold
the University, and the formative effect
it has had on their lives.
Many tell me about their
first experience of meeting different
kinds of people here, like one major
industrialist, who is now advising the
United Nations on business policy and
strategy. Brought up in Bradford, he
had been educated at public school,
and when he came to Leeds he met an
African person for the first time.
Nearly fifty years later
he described this ‘incredible
experience’ to me, and how he
took this chap all over the country
to show him the culture of England.
Twenty years after they graduated and
lost touch, they met again by chance
at a business meeting in Nigeria. It
was as if the decades had melted away,
and their shared bond in the University
of Leeds brought them together again.
Another senior businessman,
on being knighted for services to engineering,
drove from Manchester to south Wales
to pay homage to his former tutor, that
great champion of concrete, Professor
R H Evans. For him, and many others,
Leeds was a life-changing experience
and a platform for career and personal
So how can we harness
all this goodwill and support to ensure
that we continue to enrich people’s
lives and to fulfil our mission –
‘to create, advance and disseminate
knowledge and develop outstanding graduates
and scholars to make a major impact
on global society?”
Our graduates can help
us in three ways - and all the evidence
suggests they are waiting to be asked.
First, we want them to
spread the word about Leeds - our ambitions
and our new momentum. We are in contact
with nearly 110,000 addressable alumni
all over the world - from city boardrooms
to the refugee camps of Aceh, from the
British forces in Iraq to the laboratories
of America. We will be keeping each
of them informed, systematically, about
what’s going on at Leeds, about
how we value them as lifelong members
of the University, and how they can
become involved in our plans.
Secondly, this incredible
community of alumni can bring us new
networks, and offer our students great
opportunities - such as the 150 work
placements we’ve just secured
with the global management company Accenture,
where one of the partners is a graduate.
Our students will have to compete and
prove themselves of course, but we can
help find people to help them get a
foot in the door.
The potential is there
in all walks of life - in the art and
museum world alone we have graduates
at the Tate, the National Gallery, the
Wallace Collection, the V & A, the
Natural History Museum, the Imperial
War Museum, the Science Museum, the
National Museums in Liverpool - as well
as the Getty in Los Angeles.
The chief curator of painting
and sculpture at MoMA in New York -
arguably the best modern art museum
in the world - is a great supporter.
He still recalls studying under Quentin
Bell, and has forgiven us for throwing
him out of University accommodation
for decorating his room and bed with
a Gauguin-inspired mural.
Thirdly, we are going
to ask alumni to take a stake in the
University through financial support.
This University was built on the philanthropy
of the Clothworkers, of Parkinson and
of Brotherton among others. Although
it will not replace government funding,
external income will be needed to add
excellence and quality to our core activities.
All the world’s top universities
have a significant development and advancement
function - we will not be the exception!
Once graduates have told
me how happy and important their life
was at Leeds, they all ask the same
question - is it still like that? Is
it still a wonderful experience on this
campus? Yes, I tell them, it is still
a unique environment in which students
thrive and really enjoy their time with
us. And with your support and help,
we will keep that going.
J P Arthur