Somerville leads tributes

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thatcherPrincipals and students of Thatcher alma mater comment

Somerville College have led tributes to their former student Margaret Thatcher in the weeks since her death.

The college flag has been flying at half-mast since her death and there is also the opportunity to sign a memorial book, located in the Lodge.

Baroness Thatcher’s funeral was also screened in the Hall for students and alumni yesterday morning.

Dr Alice Prochaska, Principal of Somerville, commented: “’Somerville College sets students from all backgrounds on paths to future success.

“We are immensely proud to have educated Britain’s first – and so far only – female Prime Minister and one of the most internationally significant statespeople of the twentieth century. On this sad day, we pay tribute to the truly pioneering spirit that propelled her to the pinnacle of British political, and public, life.”

Baroness Thatcher studied Chemistry at the college between 1943 and 1947, during which time she received several prizes for her academic work and developed connections which would influence her policy later in life.

Particularly notable of these were the close ties she made to her tutor Dorothy Hodgkin, to date the only British female to win the Nobel Prize for science, who visited Lady Thatcher during her time as Prime Minister to discuss nuclear disarmament.

The gratitude which Baroness Thatcher felt she owed to Somerville is expressed in an open letter she wrote to the college in 1980 saying: “I take a few moments from the daily round of difficult tasks to say how much I owe to four years at Somerville.

“The harvest gathered from those years has been rich indeed. Rich in friendships which range across the world and form a common bond with people in many different countries.

“Rich in an enhanced awareness that universities not only transmit scholarship from generation to generation but that they are the main source of creative ideas which are both a hope and a challenge for the future.

“And perhaps because I was there in wartime, rich in the knowledge that without freedom life would have neither dignity nor meaning.”

Amelia Hamer, a first year PPEist at Somerville, commented: “In terms of political affiliations, Thatcher has had little to no impact on the college. That said, the legacy that Margaret Thatcher leaves is one of female achievement and the notion of challenging commonly accepted ideas.”

This was supported by Brendan Brett, a second year Historian at Somerville, who wrote: “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.”

A small group of students have, however, decided that Thatcher’s legacy should be remembered in a more obvious manner.

A Facebook campaign has been launched under the title “Rename Somerville College “Thatcher College, Oxford.”

The group pledges that renaming the college in this manner would be “a fitting and lasting tribute to Margaret Thatcher, our greatest Prime Minister and greatest Somervillian.”

This campaign has been met with a tepid response however, as to date the campaign has only attracted 21 “likes” and it seems unlikely that it will achieve its stated aim.