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Coming together: 1960s and 1970s graduates reunite on campus

Professor Kelly Coate, Pro Vice Chancellor for Education and Students

Professor Sarah Garfinkel

This autumn, more than 200 alumni from the 1960s and 1970s were welcomed onto campus for a day of tours, talks and the chance to reconnect and reminisce over lunch.

Student ambassadors guided alumni and their guests round many of their old haunts: the library, Arts A, Falmer House, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (formerly known as the Gardner Arts Centre), and the new East Slope residences, finally arriving back at Bramber House to reconnect with old friends.

Professor Kelly Coate, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students, commenced formal proceedings by warmly welcoming returning alumni. During her address Kelly referred to a photograph that hangs in her office on campus, which, to her, embodies the spirit of Sussex in the 60s and 70s. It transpired that she was keen to determine the identities of the two bearded students dressed in flared trousers standing in front of Falmer House, so, spurring much laughter, Kelly passed the framed photograph to the audience in the hope that somebody amongst the two cohorts might be able to satisfy her curiosity.

Next up, guests were treated to a very personal and stimulating talk by Sarah Garfinkel, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry. In 2018, the journal Nature identified Sarah as one of 11 international 'Rising Star' scientists across all STEM disciplines.

Captivating the audience, Sarah outlined her research into the body-brain interactions underlying emotion and cognition, and her investigation of how the beats of the heart and our awareness of its rhythms can influence everything from anxiety levels and memory, to sleep quality and racial bias. Moving on, Sarah delivered a brief overview of her research into ‘interoception’, the felt sense of one’s internal organ activities, a scientific area in which Sarah is considered to be one of the world’s foremost experts.

Guests were then invited to make their way to Dine Central in Bramber House – formerly known by many as ‘the new refectory’ – for a three-course meal. Surrounded by original photographs from the 60s and 70s, kindly loaned for the occasion by their alumni owners, guests were free to sit with old friends and continue sharing memories of their time at Sussex, accompanied by an alumni curated playlist of 1960s and 1970s music.

In between requests for individuals to make themselves known to old friends in the room, ably MC’d by Dr Marina Pedreira-Vilarino, Director of Development & Alumni Relations, lunch was punctuated with two short speeches.

In the first, Eman Elharmeel, recipient of the Cate Haste Scholarship in Media and Film, expressed her thanks for the generous alumni support of scholarships at Sussex, highlighting how her own scholarship had been fundamental in her being able to leave her native Egypt to come and study for her masters degree, in which she had been awarded a distinction.

The second speaker, Peter Carpenter, gracious benefactor of the Peter Carpenter African Climate Change PhD Scholarship, reinforced Eman’s message and encouraged those present to join him in supporting student scholarships, instructing the audience with some jollity:

“Open your wallets and repeat after me, please help yourselves.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in a final nod to the early days of Sussex, the occasion was wrapped up with an invitation to go for a drink at Falmer Bar.

Referring to the success of the reunion, Marina Pedreira-Vilarino commented:

“It was a fantastic event and it was lovely to see so many people coming back to campus and enjoying themselves. It has certainly shown that there is a real affection for Sussex amongst our alumni, and the event provided the perfect opportunity to celebrate friendships made – some more than 50 years ago!”

If you would like to support talented students like Eman, you can make a donation via our secure online giving page.

Photographs taken at the event are available to view via our Flikr account and you can watch a short film of the event highlights via our youtube account.

To look at or submit photographs from your time at Sussex, visit the Sussex Scrapbook webpage. 

By: Emma Wigmore
Last updated: Thursday, 7 November 2019