|2014 has, I think, been a good year for the UK ODU and for that I want to thank all of you for your support for the Union. Our June dinner with the Principal, Guy Pearson, the ODU President, Raymond Ackerman, Mike Bosman, Chairman of Council and Brian Robertson, ODU Chairman was everything ODs wanted it to be and brought Bishops firmly to us here in the UK. It was reassuring to hear how well the School is doing. Our most recent function, the House of Lords party, hosted by Anthony St John (F, 1974) was lively and collegiate, the former inevitable, the latter deeply satisfying (view the House of Lords pictures by clicking here). A full report of the evening will be sent out later.
In the coming years, I think it important that we build the ODU to be of practical benefit to ODs so that, as an alumni association, we fulfil a purpose that is more than just social functions and sporting events, important and fun though they are. There are more ODs in the UK than ever before, some just graduated, others moving towards the end of their careers. There is a great deal we can do as the UK ODU to support and mentor those starting out or experiencing difficulties not just with careers, but also with their new lives in a new country. Gratifyingly, many ODs up here have already expressed an interest in becoming involved in this sort of programme and the idea will be developed into something alive and valuable next year. Stuart Commins (F, 2006) has offered to explore this with younger ODs early next year. We are not alone in this objective in transforming our Union from a more socially-focused club into something which is more meaningful relevant.
This year has been something of a calibration exercise to see what works and what doesn't. Next year I hope to hold smaller regional events to bring together ODs who live too far out of London to attend functions here. We are, after all, the UK branch, not the London branch. The photo to the right is of a small "regional" OD lunch in Oxford in November (from left: Mathew Golesworthy (2012), Nicky Bicket (1973), the Revd Tim Bravington (1954) and Dr Chris Winearls (1968). As things stand, there is a Henley event on the 5th July and an Oxford one on the 12th September. Details of our golf match against Tonbridge Old Boys are still to be confirmed, but will be in the summer. Closer to London, our annual black-tie dinner is on the 5th June and Simply Blue will be singing for ODs on 12th August.
Next month, on January 23rd, Raymond Ackerman is hosting a lunch for Senior ODs. Lunches - and limiting some to older ODs - is a new format for us, and other alumni associations find them very successful and well-attended. I would encourage our Senior ODs to use the opportunity to meet with Raymond within this slightly more restrained segment of the OD population. There is an interesting and diverse set of ODs already coming along.
We are ODs only because we once were Bishops boys (and girls). I don't think anyone forgets this, but the fact is, we don't have the School close by as a physical reminder. Two events in the past two months have underscored what a great school Bishops is: the first was a day earlier this month Greg Baldwin (O, 1975) and I spent at Haileybury College as guests of the Old Haileyburian Society. We attended a school lecture, a lunch, a rugby match and then a most wonderful Choral Evensong where I was privileged to have been asked to read a lesson and during the service. Bishops was mentioned frequently in prayers. As a school, we have strong ties with Haileybury, ties which they are very keen to extend to our two alumni associations. And they want to do this because they hold Bishops in high esteem and greatly value the relationship. The picture above is of Greg and me with Seb Prentice, a Grade 10 Bishops boy on exchange to Haileybury.
The second event was The Varsity Match (the annual Oxford vs Cambridge rugby derby played at Twickenham). This year, the two university rugby clubs used the match as an opportunity to commemorate the 55 Rugby Blues who gave their lives in WW1. 3 of those were ODs: Reginald Hands, Walter Dickson and Stephen Steyn. The ODU was invited to lay a wreath at the ceremony, which Stephen Hofmeyr (O, 1973) himself an Oxford Rugby Blue, did on behalf of Bishops. At the ceremony during which Bishops was specifically singled out for a special welcome, and at the subsequent lunch with the other 22 (of 25) schools represented, many sought us out to talk about Bishops and to express their admiration for the School. Many had visited Bishops on sporting tours (only to be soundly thrashed they were quick to add). Steve and I felt incredibly proud of Bishops which holds its place high among the best of the schools up here. We should not be too modest. An added bonus to the day was being able to watch Zandy MacDonald, an OD, vice-captain Oxford and score a try.
One way in which we as the UK ODU are trying to create a living link and interest is through the creation of a UK ODU bursary. The details for this are being worked on by Niall Carroll (O, 1981) and Graham Thomas (1984). If - and I'm sure it will - this comes to fruition, a UK ODU bursary-holder will give us "skin in the game" and a real-time interest in what is happening on the Campus.
May I end by once again thanking all of you for your interest, advice, support and participation in the UK ODU.
A very blessed Christmas to all of you and I do hope that 2015 is happy and healthy for everyone.
With warm regards