First-Ever Durham Alumni Weekend Hosted by IES Abroad

For more than 1,000 years, Durham University Castle has hosted queens, kings, princes, prime ministers, and more. On April 7, 2017, for the first time, IES Abroad Durham alumni gathered together to kick off the inaugural IES Abroad Durham Alumni Weekend. From 1969 to 2000, nearly 1,000 IES Abroad students lived and learned in the northern city of Durham, England. Nearly 50 alumni and their guests reunited to celebrate their time at the prestigious Durham University.

The weekend’s festivities began in London at the IES Abroad London Center, located in the convenient Bloomsbury neighborhood. Center Director John Ockey provided an informative overview of the study and intern abroad programs that nearly 700 U.S. college students experience each year. John also thanked the attendees for their generous contributions to the IES Abroad Durham Alumni Global Leadership Gift. This collectively provides $85,000 in scholarships for U.K.-based programs and more than $1,075,000 in planned gifts for scholarships for IES Abroad students. A student scholarship recipient also spoke at the event, sharing her study abroad experience and personally attesting that she would not have been able to attend the London program without IES Abroad scholarship aid.

Durham University Castle was the ideal place for attendees to rekindle the experience of living and learning abroad for a year in this ancient city. Vice Chancellor of Durham University Professor Stuart Corbridge welcomed the IES Abroad alumni with remarks on Durham University today. In 1969, Durham University was comprised of 3,200 undergraduate students enrolled at eight colleges. Today, 13,500 undergraduate students attend and belong to 15 colleges on two campuses.

Vice Chancellor Corbridge also proudly announced that Durham ousted Loughborough as leader of the British University College Sport Finals. Durham won a grand total of nine Championships at the Finals event in March. Watch part one and part two of Vice Chancellor Corbridge’s address on Facebook.

The highlight of the weekend was the lovely Saturday dinner at Hatfield College, hosted by alumna Debbie Schuler (Durham 1973-74). Alums from IES Abroad classes, ranging 1971 to 1984, shared lively stories of basketball championships, formal college dinners, trips to continental Europe, and memories of Professor Spooner, the first IES Abroad Durham Center Director. IES Abroad Durham alums also fondly remembered former Program Assistant Marlene Austin and former Program Directors Jenny Hobbs and Geoffrey Thrush for their nurturing care and sage guidance. Marlene Austin’s husband, Professor Ralph Austin, was also in attendance.

Reunion attendees also explored the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Durham and strolled the lovely river walk. Although the University was not in session, special provisions were made so alumni had an opportunity to visit their colleges. All agreed that the hills were much steeper than remembered. As Durham 1980-81 alumna Martha Bullen facetiously suggested, perhaps an unreported tectonic shift changed the elevations of the Durham streets!

Having survived, wars, famine, and thousands of years of poor weather, the mighty Durham Cathedral remains as stalwart and awe-inspiring as ever. Many weekend attendees took the opportunity to appreciate the interior of the Cathedral and the great Norman columns by attending the Anglican Palm Sunday service with the renowned Durham Cathedral choir before heading home.

Interested in learning more about the Durham Alumni Weekend? See more pictures and videos from the weekend events, and check out our upcoming IES Abroad Alumni Weekends.

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