Memories of Congregation

Genista Astell and Christopher Wright

Genista Astell, St Mary’s College, Spring 2022

Graduation: a day which had been a long time coming – from matriculation and years of study to the ceremony scheduled and cancelled twice due to Covid-19! I was convinced at times that a graduation ceremony is something that I would sadly not experience. When finishing my degree during the lockdown of 2020, it felt slightly anti-climactic to end such a significant era with only my close family, in our garden. How I wished an official ceremony in the grand cathedral in Durham, where I started my university academic journey, would be possible to mark the completion of my degree. 

Two years on, Durham University did not fail to disappoint! And the anticipation built up over the five years to officially recognise the success of obtaining a degree from Durham University was not unwarranted. It was a marvelous day. 

Great efforts had been made to conduct the ceremony and following celebrations as traditionally as possible, despite Covid-19 still being of concern. It was wonderful to share the buzzing excitement of fellow graduates in the Palace Green marquee, catch up with my former lecturers in the department’s drinks reception, and return to beloved St. Mary’s college to enjoy a final meal with the Principal and other St. Mary’s alumni. I am extremely grateful for such efforts made so that I and other students were able to experience and celebrate in true Durham University style. The opportunity to bow before the Chancellor on the cathedral platform – in mutual recognition of a unique, hard-earned, life success – is something I will cherish and for which feel deeply blessed.

Christopher Wright, Grey College, 1961-64

On graduation day with my future wife and my dad

I was a student at Grey College in its very early days, from 1961 to 1964 when Syd Holgate was the Master.  He impressed me greatly when I attended for interview by telling me all the train times and connections that I would need to get me back to Bishop’s Stortford.  I read Psychology when the Department was in a house in Kepier Terrace, now flats for international students I believe.  It was only much later that I realised how young the Department was in those days.  Graduation in 1964 was held in the Great Hall of the Castle, preceded by a service in the Cathedral, even in July it seemed the coldest place in Britain, at which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Ramsey, was the preacher.  We were allowed four guests so in addition to my parents and so the Minister of Claypath Congregational Church, the Revd John Green, and his daughter Mary who is my wife of 54 years, also attended. Very happy memories!   

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Genista Astell and Christopher Wright

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