Christ Church Chemistry Affinity Group Committee

Minutes of the First Meeting (Part II)

nd March 2014, 11.00 am, The Dodgson Room, Christ Church

Present: Martin Grossel (1973), Alex Robinson (2002), Irene Summers (2003), Simon Hall (1975), Fiona Holdsworth (1981), Tony Law (1965), Nick Allen (1979), Ian Jones (1964), Richard Wayne (1965), Ann Holloway (1989).

Apologies: David Wheeler (1978) (although he did participate by phone/skype), Tristan Smart (2006) (although he did join us at the pub afterwards), Ian Richardson (1973), Aston Swift (1987), Jon Ma (1992), Alex Roth (1998), Camilla West (1998), Alistair Davidson (1999), Sean Murray (2000), Leia Clancy (Development Office).

1. Welcome

Martin Grossel thanked everyone for coming to the meeting and extended particular thanks to Fiona Holdsworth for her work organizing the meeting and to Ann Holloway for taking the minutes. He explained that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the concept of a Christ Church Chemistry Affinity group and that the present meeting was a duplicate meeting to one held in January. It was explained that minutes of the January meeting had not been circulated in order that ideas generated at the March meeting could be new ones, not influenced by the earlier meeting.

2. Review of the Survey

Fiona Holdsworth gave some background to the survey of Christ Church Chemists which occurred in September 2013. The survey was initiated as a result of comments made to Richard Wayne at Martin’s retirement dinner in June 2013 – several of those who attended that event showed enthusiasm for more Chemistry dinners, such as those in 2005 and 2006, and lunches such as the one held to mark Paul Kent’s 90th birthday in 2013.

Richard filled in the background to the idea of forming an Affinity Group for Christ Church Chemists, and Fiona reported on the Steering Group meeting held in October 2013, during which it was decided that Martin Grossel’s involvement in the project was important owing to his knowledge of the Chemists as a group and his ongoing contact with College.

Fiona also explained that those who had been invited to the present meeting and the previous meeting in January had all indicated on their surveys that they would be willing to contribute help or ideas (or both) to a Christ Church Chemistry Affinity Group (with potentially almost 450 members), and that there were so many people who had offered their services that they had been split into two groups, with an attempt to get a spread of different matriculation decades in both groups.

[Subsequent to the meeting it was decided to merge the two groups.]

3. Possible Types of Event

(a) Dinners

There was some discussion of dinners and their frequency and timing. It was agreed that holding a dinner every year would neither be practical, nor necessarily desirable, but that every 2-3 years would be better. Dinners have historically been held at the start of the summer vacation but could take place at other times – particularly at the end of the summer vacation after conferences have finished.

It was agreed that Christmas would be a bad time as people are usually too busy, but New Year is often quiet. Easter was mentioned, as was the need to avoid school holidays and to hold events during University vacations. Some who have grandchildren said that during school term is best for them as they have fewer childcare responsibilities.

The October Gaudy stops conferences being held in College and apart from the night of the Gaudy itself there are often rooms available around that time. It was pointed out that it is important to get dates of events sorted as early as possible, both from the point of view of booking rooms in College and to give those hoping to attend time to clear their own diaries.

The idea of linking in with an Alumni weekend was mentioned, although the Saturdays of such weekends could be difficult. The results of the survey indicated that 53% of respondents preferred Saturdays for events against 34% who preferred Fridays. Fridays might give more options for booking events in College. It was pointed out that 8pm was the latest start time for dinners involving College staff, and that those who needed to travel after work might struggle on a Friday.

There was also some discussion of linking an Affinity Group event with a Chemistry Department event – although, once again, such times can get rather busy.

It was also noted that there are potentially 442 members of the Affinity Group and that large events such as dinners traditionally attract around 200 people, so a large venue, such as Hall, is required. Availability of Hall can be an issue, but Chemists do particularly enjoy returning to College and dining in Hall.

Other possibilities, such as having dinners linked to particular decades or taking a few tables in Hall for smaller groups, were also discussed.

It was concluded that the best frequency for dinners would be to hold 2 dinners every 5 years, with at least one dinner in the summer. The importance of rooms being available was also noted. It is clear that it will not be possible to have a dinner in summer 2014, but that every effort is being made to organize one for summer 2015.

(b) Other Events

Events other than dinners were also discussed. Lunches, garden parties, and regional events involving small numbers of people might also be of interest to Affinity Group members.

Efforts are currently being made to organize a Christ Church Chemistry garden party, based in the Masters’ Garden, for this summer. Obviously, outdoor events require an indoor backup venue in case of inclement weather. [At the time of the meeting it was not obvious whether venues had been secured for this event, but subsequent to the meeting arrangements were eventually finalised.]

The format of such events was discussed. Some events might include families, picnics, and teas. Competitions for children (drawing, treasure hunts, photography) could be organized, and talks could be arranged or eminent guests invited. There was also talk of organizing musical entertainment and possibly arranging for a special exhibition in the Upper Library, as both have enjoyed considerable success at past Chemistry events.

It was noted that we do not currently have any data regarding families of those who might bring them to such events. Perhaps such data should be gathered. Places such as the Catholic Chaplaincy, the JCR, and Corpus Christi were also suggested as possible venues for events.

It was also noted that we do not currently have data regarding the geographical location of the 442 potential Affinity Group members and that many may like to have events that are based close to where they live. Central London would be an obvious place to hold an event, and an event held for Oxford Chemists at the RI a few years ago was very successful.

Other locations were also mentioned – Durham, Reading, Exeter, Bath, Portsmouth, and Winchester are places where there are Christ Church Chemistry contacts. Alumni in post in other Universities may be interested in giving talks on their research. Harry Kroto was suggested as a guest lecturer, as was Allan Chapman, who is currently preparing a book on Buckland.

ACTION (Fiona Holdsworth): Gather information about families and locations of Christ Church Chemists.

ACTION (Simon Hall): Investigate the naval base in Portsmouth (particularly HMS Warrior) as a possible venue.

ACTION: (All): Feed back any further ideas concerning such events to Fiona Holdsworth.

Different age groups will be likely to enjoy different sorts of events. The Christ Church Association holds a “young person” event in London for those who matriculated during the 1990s and 2000s, and there are also events organized by the University for those who graduated in the last 10 years that are well attended.

Martin also mentioned that we might be able to access the House of Lords, and that that is a nice venue, particularly out of parliamentary term.

Spontaneous events could also be organized at short notice. There is a tradition of a “Chemistry Curry” that continues, and the RSC has a tradition of meeting at various pubs. It was also noted that people would like a link online to see who is planning to attend various events.

Current undergraduates and postgraduates are to be included in the Affinity Group. Affinity Group events could provide a platform for second years, Part II students, and postgraduates to give presentations or poster sessions, and prizes could even be awarded. Undergraduates could also be interested in meeting those at various stages of their careers and in information regarding careers in chemistry.

4. Communications

We have e-mail addresses for most alumni, although there are a few who will need to be contacted by post. Communications for the Affinity Group are going to be built around the internet and e-mail, and Pete Biggs has given generous help with these matters. It has become clear that Affinity Group members are keen to have a bulletin board and also know what others are doing (perhaps through a group on Linkedin or Facebook, or maybe both). They are also interested in an e-mail newsletter and keen to see who is attending events. We do also have our own website, and could work on extending that in order to provide additional information that people want.

It was agreed that there should be a password-protected area on the website, accessible to committee members only. It was also suggested that the minutes from the Affinity Group Committee meetings should be available on the website.

All those present at the meeting gave their permission for their e-mail addresses to be circulated for Affinity Group purposes.

It was stated that those who will be contacted by post will be strongly encouraged to provide us with an e-mail address. There are currently around 100 alumni who have not supplied e-mail addresses. We should ensure that we don’t spam people who don’t wish to be involved – we can reach out and tell them that we exist and what we are doing, offering them the opportunity, but if they’re not interested then we shouldn’t pester them. It was also mentioned that people are more willing to give their e-mail addresses if they know they won’t be asked for money!

Once the Christ Church Chemistry Affinity Group is more established, a flyer or note could be placed in the Christ Church Annual Report. There’s also no reason why the Affinity Group shouldn’t have a report included in the Annual Report.

5. The Role of the Development Office

The Development Office is currently undergoing a period of change. Our links with them are good, although there are sometimes communication issues regarding room bookings. We’re trying very hard not to put on strain onto them and to do most of the work connected with running the Affinity Group ourselves. We don’t have funds, so those coming to dinner after evening committee meetings will need to sign themselves in to Hall for the evening. However, we can link in to the Development Office payment system if we need to. It should also be mentioned that we hope the existence of the Affinity Group might confer some benefits upon the Development Office and the College as a whole.

6. Next Steps

(a) The Summer Event should be discussed by e-mail.

(b) A password-protected webspace should be established.

(c) Affinity Group committee members should meet again in September, the two groups should share minutes and mix freely. [Subsequent to the meeting it was decided that those from both groups would be invited to the next meeting on 10th May 2014 and that the groups should merge.]

10. A.O.B.

1. Postgraduates who were not undergraduates at Oxford are also included in the Affinity Group, although it is recognized that they may feel more of a connection to their laboratories or undergraduate institutions. Craig Mills, of the Wayne Group, is going to work with us on this matter and will be attending the next meeting. There is a good tradition of “non-gremial” chemists and they are very interested in participating in chemistry events.

2. It was suggested that “missing” chemists could possibly be contacted through friends from their own year or adjacent years. This tactic has been successful in tracking down old members for “50 Year” events and so on.

Martin Grossel thanked everybody for their attendance at the meeting, which closed at 12.37pm. Many of those present adjourned to The Head of the River for lunch.