Last month we launched our alumni appeal for the McEwan Hall redevelopment project and your response has been incredible, spanning generations and continents.
Over 850 donors have contributed so far, with graduation ceremonies spread over 73 years from 1942 to 2015. The geographical coverage has been equally impressive, with support from as far afield as Canada, Iceland and Hong Kong.
Alumni in Edinburgh – among them university staff – have been similarly strong in their response to the appeal, for which a donation of £115 will see a name recognised in the restored Hall.
One of the main benefits of the redevelopment is improving access facilities for the building to be enjoyed by all. Kathleen Hood (BA English Literature, 1975) is a champion of access of a different but equally important kind in her role as Head of Widening Participation and Deputy Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions.
Kathleen’s pathway to enlightenment started at the age of four. Her mother, Jean Owens, had left school at the age of 15 with no qualifications. Nevertheless, she knew the power of education and, being unable to afford to buy books, enrolled her daughter at the local library.
She inspired a love of reading and literature in me from an early age and was therefore very proud when I studied English Literature at the University of Edinburgh.
Kathleen was the first person in her family, and indeed her community, to go to university and Jean loved attending her daughter’s graduation in McEwan Hall in 1975. Fast forwarding a few decades and a lot of hard work, many more parents will experience the same happy moments Jean did thanks to the efforts of Kathleen and her Widening Participation team.
Jean sadly passed away before she could hear about Kathleen’s work to address the discrepancies in the uptake of higher education opportunities between different social groups. But Kathleen has chosen this opportunity, coinciding with her retirement, to recognise her mother’s support.
[…] I know she would be proud of the difference we have made to thousands of students from backgrounds similar to my own. I hope having her name in the building can inspire future generations. It will also be a touchstone for me.
The McEwan Hall appeal has conjured up a wealth of memories among our alumni. Many share the poignancy of Kathleen’s story, but some have an altogether more sinister vibe, as Douglas Bell (MBChB 1948) recounts in his spooky tale on the Landmark feature page of Edit. Be sure to add your own favourite stories too.