The two of us
Many a lasting relationship is forged during university days, and we love to share how you met your partner or best friend.
In this edition, our stories come from a particularly well-travelled crop, including Kenneth King (now Emeritus Professor) and Pravina Khilnani, who began a globe-spanning “safari” together when they met as students 50 years ago. If you met your partner or best friend at Edinburgh and would like to share your story, email us.
When kilt met sari
Kenneth King: PhD African history 1968
Pravina Khilnani: MA Arts 1968
Our 50-year safari together started in 1965 with Pravina as undergraduate and me as postgraduate.
I met Pravina through friends at a public seminar early in the term. She was an officer in the students’ United Nations Association, and she invited me to talk about Ethiopia, where I had been teaching before I was attracted back to Edinburgh by the new Centre of African Studies (CAS).
We went to a number of lectures together, including those on African History by the late Christopher Fyfe. Luckily for me, Pravina didn’t pass her Sanskrit in her final term, so she stayed on, and we got engaged in October 1967. We were married in Rosslyn Chapel by Roland Walls, whose lectures in New College we had both attended. We had a second wedding in New Delhi.
We started teaching in Kenya in September 1968, Pravina in her old school, and me at the University of Nairobi. We came back to Edinburgh in 1972, for me to take up a new position in the CAS.
I eventually directed the Centre for 20 years, and Pravina became the CAS administrator in 1991. She organised Scotland-Africa ’97, the largest celebration of Scotland’s cultural connections with Africa ever held.
We retired in 2005, and I was invited to the University of Hong Kong. We both got involved in researching China’s role in Africa, which resulted in a book, 'China's aid and soft power in Africa: the case of education and training'. I am now Emeritus Professor in the School of Social & Political Science.
The University has been central to our lives together, even if Pravina had not expected to be in Scotland’s cold climate 50 years after arriving!
Dinner and destiny
Vivian Abrahams: BSc Physiology 1951, PhD 1955, DSc 1978
In 1954 I was transitioning from assistant lecturer to lecturer while completing a PhD in physiology with Dr Mary Pickford. A charming young graduate from University College London arrived to take up a scholarship, also to complete a PhD.
As a well-brought-up young man I did not get involved with this person, but did introduce her, an English girl from a farm in Berkshire, to some parts of the Edinburgh social scene.
Everything changed on 28 January 1955. It was Pam’s birthday – and pay day. Since my promotion I had moved from the near-starving to the relatively affluent. In a wild moment I invited everybody to a pub lunch to celebrate Pam’s birthday. I enjoyed Pam’s company
so much that I invited her to dinner that evening, and we have been dining together ever since.
We married that year and Pam accompanied me to the University of Pennsylvania where I took up a Fulbright Fellowship. Pam never completed her PhD but had a long and much valued role teaching here in the Physiology Department at Queen’s University, Ontario, retiring as an assistant professor.
I was recruited to open a Neurophysiology Lab here at Queen’s University in 1963. After a very full academic career I retired as Director of the Medical Research Council of Canada’s Research Group in Sensory-motor Physiology at Queen’s.
The photo was taken at our 60th anniversary celebrations in 2015.
Peter Gibbons: BSc Physics 1983
Kathleen Murphie: BSc Engineering 1984
Our first meeting couldn’t be described as romantic: a crowded tearoom in the James Clerk Maxwell Building. Katy was a freshman chemical engineer and I was a third-year physics undergraduate.
Through a circle of mutual friends our paths crossed regularly and we got to know each other. However, I nearly sabotaged things when Katy asked me to hand in her maths tutorial – I decided to check it over and made a significant change only to realise at the last moment her original was correct. I have never lived that down.
We finally managed a “date” one week before I left Edinburgh – timing was not my strong point. We
had dinner and got on incredibly well. Work and distance meant it took time for us to realise that we were best friends and meant to be together – a vacation in Paris certainly helped.
We’ve been married 25 years and have two daughters and a son, and our life together has taken us to Maidenhead, Brazil and the US. The move to Sao Paulo, Brazil, with three very young children affirmed just how remarkable Katy is – and why it’s important to share a sense of humour.
That first meeting in a University of Edinburgh tearoom led to a wonderful life together and we look forward to many more adventures ahead.
Katy and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in 2015 in Machu Picchu, Peru.