Christ Church Chemistry Affinity Group Committee

Minutes of the First Meeting (Part I)

th January 2014, 5.30 pm, The Bayne Room, Christ Church

Present: David Dunmur (1959), Leia Clancy (Development Office), Mike Tuddenham (1983), Fiona Holdsworth (1981), George Marston (1980), Graham Allatt (1967), Sarah Allatt (1996), Ann Holloway (1989), Will Peveler (2007), Charlie Vincent (2000), Kiri Stevens (2004), Richard Wayne (1965), Judith Fox (1989), Alex Drong (2006), Martin Grossel (1973).

Apologies: David Franks (1973), David Parker (1974), Nick Allen (1979), Alex Ashcroft (1985), Eimear Cotter (1997), Tom Woolerton (2004), Dirk Aarts. Jason Davis is currently on leave.

1. Welcome

Martin Grossel thanked everyone for coming to the meeting and outlined the purpose of the meeting, which was to discuss the concept and scope of a Christ Church Chemistry Affinity Group and to decide how to proceed from this point.

2. Background to setting up the Affinity Group

Richard Wayne explained that there have been several Christ Church Chemistry dinners over the past few years. These have usually been held to mark “special” occasions, such as his retirement, various significant birthdays, and, most recently, Martin Grossel’s retirement in June 2013.

The impression has been that these Chemistry dinners, which are essentially “subject gaudies”, are very much enjoyed and that there is a particular feeling of cohesion between the Christ Church Chemists as a group. Chemists have traditionally enjoyed dinners, parties and other social events, often organized by Martin Grossel, over the years.

Since there are unlikely to be more retirements in the immediate future, we’re now looking for some sort of focus in order to hold more dinners. The idea for an “Affinity Group” came to Richard Wayne when he saw that there are many such groups in Cambridge. These groups hold functions and gatherings and so on. If the Christ Church Chemists had such a group it could organize dinners and other events, and it might also be beneficial for the Development Office and the College as a whole.

Following a survey of many Chemists (see 4. below) in September, a Steering Committee meeting was held in October 2013 to discuss the results of the survey and the possible formation of an Affinity Group. The present meeting, which Martin Grossel has kindly agreed to chair, is the result.

3. Minutes of the Steering Committee Meeting

Fiona Holdsworth summarized the minutes of the Steering Committee meeting held in October 2013. Those who attended that meeting were Richard Wayne, Fiona Holdsworth, Leia Clancy and Ann Holloway.

The results of the survey indicated that the Christ Church Chemists were strongly in favour of holding more dinners in the future and forming an Affinity Group. There was discussion of who might be involved in these events.

The Steering Committee went through the list of those who had offered ideas and/or help in their responses to the survey and selected a spread of people from across the decades to invite to the present meeting. It is hoped that all those who offered help or ideas but were not at this meeting would also be involved in the Affinity Group.

Communication was discussed. So far communication had been entirely by e-mail, and we were aware of a need to think about those for whom we don’t have e-mail addresses. Issues of data divulgence were discussed, and the role of the Development Office was also addressed – we are keen that the Affinity Group should not create extra work for the Development Office, although we acknowledge the work that Leia Clancy has done and welcome her involvement.

There was some discussion of finance and how the Affinity Group and events might be funded. No obvious conclusion was reached and discussions on this subject are still ongoing.

It emerged following the meeting that Martin Grossel was the obvious candidate to chair this meeting and the Affinity Group Committee. He is the one person who knows Christ Church Chemists from the past and right up to the present day and is also still in touch with the College on a regular basis.

Fiona then thanked everyone for coming to the present meeting, and pointed out that the drinks reception, port, and coffee for this evening were generously funded by the Development Office.

It was also recognized that those who have offered ideas and help may be able to contribute different levels and types of assistance, and that many people are busy with other commitments and live in different parts of the country. Whilst we are grateful for all help, we should in no way oblige people to take on tasks beyond their resources.

Martin thanked Fiona and Leia for their work so far and for organizing tonight’s dinner. It was also noted that Marek Kwiatkowski, the present Development Officer, is about to leave – there will therefore be a period of change in the Development Office. Marek currently oversees everything, including fundraising.

4. Review of the Christ Church Chemists’ Survey

The survey took place over a couple of weeks in early September. There was a 51% response rate – 161 people responded.

Of those who responded, 83% indicated that they wanted a further Christ Church Chemistry dinner, giving it a 4 or 5 (out of 5) in the ratings. 50% indicated that they wanted the next dinner this year, and 66% said yes to an Affinity Group. 79% wanted the focus to be on social events. People who matriculated in the 2000s were particularly keen to attend events.

The survey also indicated that Christ Church Chemists would like to receive news of the activities of others in the Affinity Group via a news board or similar method of communication.

Matters arising from the survey results were discussed. It was agreed that news of old Chemists would be desirable, especially since the College Annual Report is often focused on academic achievements, so there is a vacuum to be filled.

It was noted that there are 442 potential Affinity Group members on file, including graduates. The Development Office holds e-mail addresses for 316 of those, postal addresses for a further 92, and no contact details for 34 “missing” Chemists. They go back to the 1940s (Paul Kent is now 90). Around 180 people attended the retirement dinners for Richard Wayne and Martin Grossel.

5. Possible Types of Event

(a) Dinners

Dinners are obviously very popular. Many people would like to have another dinner quite soon. Holding dinners every year would probably be too demanding on the system, and Hall is not available in 2014 in any case. It seems likely that the next dinner will be held in 2015, which, incidentally, is the 10th anniversary of the very successful Chemistry Dinner held in 2005 as a “rehearsal” for Richard Wayne’s retirement. Anniversaries connected to Chemistry at Christ Church could also be commemorated at dinners.

The general consensus was that biennial dinners would be the most appropriate. Dinners would remain special events at this frequency, but would not be so distantly spaced that anyone who was unable to attend one would lose touch with the Affinity group. It was also noted that gaudies now run on a 7 year cycle.

Dinners are very well attended, and Hall has a maximum capacity of 200-240 people. It was pointed out that having dinners at a time of year when College rooms are likely to be available would be advantageous, and that getting dates into diaries as early as possible would be a good idea. Dinners have traditionally been held in June, but could also be held in September. It was agreed that either the start or the end of the summer vacation would be a good time to hold dinners.

ACTION: Martin and Leia to investigate possible dinner dates for June and September 2015.

(b) Lunches

Daytime events were also discussed, and it was suggested that picnic lunches or teas could be enjoyable, more economical and easier to organize than formal dinners. Such events could be held in the Masters’ Garden, with indoor space in the Lee Building available in case of inclement weather. It was also suggested that the Cathedral Garden might be used for larger gatherings.

Lunches and garden parties might also be suitable events for including partners and families of Affinity Group members. There is a “family lunch” in College that works well, although it should be remembered that including families as well could involve large numbers of people so the capacity of the Masters’ Garden (over 100) will need to be considered.

It was agreed that there would be a garden lunch event this year in order to mark the establishment of the Affinity Group with a party of some sort.

(c) Regional Events

In order that Chemists who do not live close to Oxford might be able to meet and socialize without always having to travel long distances, regional events such as drinks parties and dinners could be organized. Several locations for these events were suggested, including Durham, Reading, Bath, Exeter, and London. The Christ Church Association also holds regional events.

It was agreed that the idea of holding regional events was a good one, although it was pointed out that these should not replace Oxford events, since many people particularly enjoy an excuse to return to Oxford and particularly to the College, which many people think of as “home”. Martin Grossel stated that he was happy to travel to be present at events in different parts of the country. Regional events could be small, but still very enjoyable.

(d) Lectures and Demonstrations

It was agreed that the lectures given by David Parker and Clare Grey at Martin’s Retirement Dinner were a great success and that people would enjoy listening to guest speakers. Harry Kroto was mentioned as a possible guest lecturer for a big event.

It was noted that lecture theatres in College and some of the Laboratories could be booked and many people reminisced about lectures during their times as undergraduates. It was also suggested that current and former Tutors and Lecturers could be involved with lectures, and noted that older Chemists would be interested to hear about the research of new Tutors who had arrived in College since their time.

(e) Other Events

Various other factors concerning events were discussed. Younger Chemists, who are still building their careers, are interested in networking events, particularly in London.

It was recognized that Affinity Group members from different decades, who are at different stages of their lives, will be interested in different sorts of events. It was suggested that some events could focus on different cohorts, but with others invited too. Family events, in particular, will be of interest to a certain group of Chemists, but of less interest to younger and older members. It was suggested that alternating types of event would be a good plan, having some exclusively for the Affinity Group members, and some that could include guests.

The need to think about those Christ Church Chemists who came here only as postgraduates was also discussed.

6. Communications

There was some discussion of the databases held within College and of how the Affinity Group could try to contact all of the potential Affinity Group members. It was also suggested that, since people who responded to the survey said they’d like news of other Chemists, an option would be to create something web-based in which people could upload a short profile of themselves.

There was also some discussion of internet platforms, websites, facebook pages, and so on. The question was posed as to whether people would prefer discrete newsletters to update them on Chemists’ activities or something more akin to a blog with an RSS feed.

The matter of e-mail was also discussed. It was agreed that most of the Christ Church Chemists had e-mail addresses or access to e-mail, and that, in this day and age there should be no obstacle to anyone getting an email address. However, it was noted that not everyone has an e-mail on file and so we needed to use the postal service, at least in the first instance, to contact those individuals.

7. The Role of the Development Office

The question was posed as to whether the Affinity Group wanted to be an independent body and to what extent the Development Office would be involved in its events.

8. Formation and Naming of the Affinity Group

There was some discussion as to the name of the Affinity Group, regarding superscripts and subscripts in the abbreviated form of the name - the subscript was considered more appropriate than the superscript.

Participants were invited to discuss other possible names over dinner, and “Christ Church Chemistry Group” was suggested.

No conclusion about this has as yet been reached.

9. Next Steps

It was agreed that organization of a get-together in the summer term would proceed, and that there would be a follow-up meeting in mid-May to finalize plans for that event which will be organized mainly by e-mail. That meeting might include a lunch in the Lee Building. Martin agreed to talk to the Steward’s Office about this event.

10. A.O.B.

It was pointed out that there is currently NO funding for the Christ Church Chemistry Affinity Group, but that the Bayne Room could be used for meetings without charge. It was also noted that committee meetings do not need to be tied to dinners.

Martin thanked everyone for coming and invited participants to continue the discussions over dinner in Hall, and to respond to the minutes with further ideas once they had had time to think about the discussions in the meeting.

The meeting closed in order to allow participants to prepare for dinner.


Subsequent to the meeting, the following have been planned:

1. The follow-up meeting will be held on 10th May 2014.

2. A meeting for other Christ Church Chemists who did not come to the January meeting but who have offered help will take place on 22 March 2014.

As yet, no date has been secured for the 2015 dinner, but meetings are in progress.