How would you react if someone asked if they could name a building after you? My response to the University of Hertfordshire was ‘Ooh! I’d be delighted. Thank you.’
This week it has finally dawned on me what that means. I was at a University dinner with Professor Quintin McKellar, the Vice Chancellor, on Friday, and he suddenly said ‘Oh, Kate! I’ve got some photos to show you.’
‘Bellingham Court’ is one of two new residential blocks on the University’s College Campus. And it’s a very bizarre experience to see my name not only on the side of the buildings, but also in the accomodation literature, and as a discussion thread on a student forum online. As I have chosen to keep my maiden name, it means it’s also the name of my father, brother, nephew, great nephew etc. And while it’s not my children’s surname, they both have ‘Bellingham’ as a middle name.
I don’t know why the University wanted to use my name – it didn’t seem appropriate to ask the question – however, it cements a very enjoyable and fruitful relationship with the UH which started in 1999, when I embarked on my MSc. (Some people take a career break when they start a family – I took a Masters in Electronic Communication Systems.) The course took me 4 years, during which time I became a part-time student rep in the Engineering and Technology department, and I ended up with a Distinction and a University Prize.
Several years later, when I did my school-based teacher training, my qualification came through the UH. And I’ve since been involved as President of the Alumni Association, on the Development Committee, a member of the University Court and I’ve supported activities from Arts Marketing Seminars to the Flare Business Awards, and I am currently on the Self Assessment Team for the Athena Swan accreditation application. Oh, and I do make a small, but regular donation to the Diamond Scholarship Fund.
But is that enough to deserve a building? I remember when the previous VC, Tim Wilson, invited me to be President of the Alumni Association. My response was ‘but I’m hardly a typical student’. ‘Exactly’ was his response. I am delighted that my efforts and contributions, which were certainly not done with the intention of getting my name up on a building, are seen as worthwhile.
When I was at school, I liked the idea of having a physics unit named after me, like Joule or Watt, but actually, having University accomodation named after me probably suits me better – it makes me feel that somehow I’m passing on my life-long love of learning to the hundreds, maybe thousands, of students who will live and work in Bellingham Court in years to come.