Those darling buds of May: Donor Day 2018
On Sunday 20 May, the College was delighted to host our tenth annual Donor Day and welcome back those who have supported St John’s over the last year to celebrate with us. 2018 marked not only our tenth Donor Day, but also 100 years since the birth of Bletchley Park cryptoanalyst and former Master, Sir Harry Hinsley — one of our best examples of what a John’s scholarship recipient can go on to achieve.
To start off the day, patrons joined us for welcome drinks in the Old Divinity School. Thanks to the glorious sunshine, guests were able to wander outside in the adjacent Corfield Courtyard, a particularly fitting environment as the refurbishment of both beautiful venues were donor funded.
St John’s Voices Perform Grace
Following drinks, attendees ambled over to Hall for lunch, which begun with the College’s mixed choir (a project supported by the Annual Fund), the St John’s Voices, singing grace before guests enjoyed a feast for the eyes and the belly.
Benefactors were treated to seaweed and miso kombu broth with scallops to start, followed by Gressingham duck supreme, Byron potatoes with Comte, and baked okra with cauliflower Hollandaise. Refreshing grilled pineapple with syrup, paired with bay leaf ice cream and lemon meringues, rounded off the meal. Inspired by Hinsley’s codebreaking skills, when perusing the menu guests discovered a code to crack overleaf! The key: the letters were the square of their number position in the alphabet.
Over coffee, the Master thanked our guests for their immense generosity and noted Hinsley’s contribution to the world and the College — from his impact during WWII, when he contributed to breaking the Enigma Code and saved countless lives by shortening the war, to guiding a plethora of future generations as a Master of St John’s.
Guests were then privileged to hear from current PhD student and Captain of St John’s recently victorious University Challenge team, James Devine-Stoneman. James spoke to us about his current work in superconducting spintronics and his project addressing the need for ever smaller and more powerful computers in an age where every last drop of performance has been squeezed from the silicon chip. James also took a moment to appreciate that he wouldn’t have been so successful in his academic career had it not been for the Thornton-Perham Bursary during his undergraduate degree at St John’s, which permitted him to make the most of his time at College and to study during the termly breaks rather than find a job in order to cover basic living costs. His donor, Nancy Lane-Perham, was delighted to sit with James during lunch and to receive his thanks in person.
When guests had had their fill of food and speeches, they went on to pursue their chosen Hinsley-themed afternoon activity.
In the Main Lecture Theatre of the Old Divinity School, an inheritor of the world-changing machine-learning those in Bletchley Park cultivated, Professor Zoubin Ghahramani (Fellow of St John’s, Deputy Director of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence and Chief Scientist of Uber), enlightened guests as to the impact of Artificial Intelligence on society. Professor Ghahramani demonstrated how unexpectedly pervasive AI is in today’s world and how he anticipates it will shape society in years to come.
A smaller group enjoyed a ‘Coding 101’ workshop in one of the teaching rooms of the Old Divinity School. Our host, alumna Vicky Butt (2012), taught guests the building blocks of modern coding using the programming language ‘Python’ on a ‘Turtle’ package. Everyone was able to have fun making their own spiral graphics using the code for an instant demonstration of its influence. You can look forward to an ‘intro to coding’ blog by Vicky in August’s e-newsletter.
For those who preferred to look to the past and how we got here, Dr Andrew Arsan (Director of Studies in History at St John’s and recipient of the Philip Leverhulme Prize) delved into College life during the War and how it affected both the students, Fellows, and soldiers stationed here. We are delighted to offer a podcast of Dr Arsan’s lecture.
To close the day, guests reconvened in the Combination Room for tea and cake, which harkened back to the ration years with Eccles cakes, lemon curd slices and a bespoke London Fog cake (an Early Grey Victoria sponge cake). This gave everyone a chance to catch up with their fellow guests and hear about the sessions they had just experienced before finishing the day with a Whitsun organ recital in the Chapel.
To discover more about supporting the College, please visit johnian.joh.cam.ac.uk.
Words by Jess Mackenzie, Stewardship Officer.
Photos by Ben Minnaar. If you are featured and would like an original high quality copy, please do get in touch at email@example.com, we would be happy to email one to you.