Former Prime Minister and alumna of Somerville College Baroness Thatcher died this morning of a stroke at the age of 87.
Lady Thatcher was Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990 and will be buried with full military honours in St Paul’s Cathedral.
Somerville College have led the tributes to their former student by flying the college flag at half-mast and beginning plans to host a memorial service within the next six months.
The college has commented that: “On this sad day, we pay tribute to the truly pioneering spirit that propelled her to the pinnacle of British political, and public, life.”
To this Dr Alice Prochaska, the Principal of Somerville, has added her own personal note of tribute, saying: “Lady Thatcher was always very close to the college and she rather touchingly wrote to us when she was first Prime Minister to say how much she had loved her time here.”
“We are very proud of having educated the first, and so far only, female Prime Minister and she was proud of having been here, which I find very touching.”
Baroness Thatcher studied Chemistry between 1943 and 1947, during which time she received several prizes for her academic work and also became President of the Oxford University Conservative Organisation.
She retained close ties to Somerville, particularly through her tutor Dorothy Hodgkin, who was the first British female to win the Nobel Prize. Hodgkin visited Lady Thatcher numerous times at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country retreat, to discuss nuclear disarmament.
OUCA have also paid tribute to their former president commenting that: “OUCA was greatly saddened to hear that our Patron and ex-President, Baroness Thatcher, has died.”
“We are all incredibly proud of her; as a former leader of our Association, our Party, and our Country. She was an inspiration to us all, a great woman of conviction, and someone who will never be forgotten. Our thoughts are with her family at this difficult time.”
Lady Thatcher served as MP for Finchley, North London, from 1959 to 1992. During her time as Prime Minister she split political opinion due to her distinctively hard-line approach to many issues, which earned her the nickname of “the Iron Lady.”
Today however these political differences have been set aside as leaders of all political parties have paid their respects.
The same is true in Oxford as Brendan Brett, a second year Historian at Somerville, expressed: “Although the college community has always had a mixed attitude towards her policies and personality, we have always been proud that such a trail-blazing and definitive politician, should have been the product of our college. She remains an inspiration to us all.”
This was echoed by Sean Ford, a PPE student from Keble, who commented: “It is clear today, even amongst students at her former university, that her actions and legacy are divisive and the passion, whether it be positive or negative, from those who were not even alive during her time in number 10 demonstrate what a lasting impact she will have.”
It seems that there will also be Oxford representation at Lady Thatcher’s funeral, the date of which is to be announced in the next few days, as Brett is planning on leading a JCR contingent from Somerville College to commemorate their former member.