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Sussex shaped our future: Alumni reunite on campus

L-R: Doug Taylor, Tony Taylor, Mike Wood, Sheila D'Sousa, Adrian (Fred) Levett, Paulette Cusick, Jackie Levett, Geoff Cusick

Inside Chichester Lecture Theatre

Geoff, Fred and Doug outside 18 New Steine, formerly The Commodore guest house

Doug, Fred, Sheila, Mike and Geoff outside T4, Park Village

This summer, it was a delight to welcome back to Sussex a group of alumni who had first set foot on campus nearly fifty years ago.  Organiser Adrian (Fred ) Levett (MOLS 1969) tells us how the visit brought back happy memories and why the vision of Sussex 2025 strikes a chord with our earliest students:

In October 1969 four young men arrived on campus for ‘Freshers Week’. Nearly 50 years later I meet up with Doug Taylor (BIOLS 69-72), Mike Wood (BIOLS 69-72), Geoff Cusick (MAPS 69-72) at the Alumni Office to reflect on a three-year journey that still shapes their lives today. With us are our wives, all with Sussex connections: Toni Taylor nee Powrie, Sheila D’Sousa (BIOLS 69-72), Paulette Cusick, nee Barton, (BIOLS 70-73) and Jackie Levett, nee Lewis. All eight of us have strong memories of these early days in the University’s history.

Meeting Emeritus Professor Tim Flowers over coffee and a tour of the John Maynard-Smith Building we reflect on the then and now. So much was eerily familiar but different. “What were the computer facilities like then?” asked a technician waiting for a summer school to arrive. “Well I had a new slide rule” returns Geoff with a smile. As nervous nostalgia dissipated, it was all smiles from here on in.

A tour of the campus was both nostalgic and reassuring. The core campus, Falmer House, the Library, the arts and science buildings were all there with Sir Basil Spence’s concrete light, space and shadows architecture a strong reminder of those early days.

We were soon discussing the old haunts: the Falmer House Bar (sticky), the Crypt (cockroaches), concerts in the ‘Old Refectory’ (noisy) and the loss of the moats, so emblematic in our minds and which added much to the architecture. Doug and I were enthusiastic members of the caving club and used the moats (in the dark) to practice!

Over lunch in Bramber House, formerly the ‘New Refectory’, talk turns to politics on campus, the arguments, late night discussions and how we were taught to think, question, speak our mind, challenge injustice and prejudice. These skills have proved invaluable in the intervening years and it is clear time has sharpened those skills, not diminished them.

So how did the four of us come to meet? It’s all down to the Accommodation Office. We all found ourselves in The Commodore guest house on New Steine in Brighton, where we shared two rooms. It was run down, quirky and the building was falling apart, none of which bothered us. These were exciting times; we were in it together.

We shared a house in Brighton for the second year, taking our option for a year on campus in the third. This saw us on the top floor of Block 4 in the Park Village and we still call ourselves “T4”. Geoff says: “In hindsight, it’s from coincidences like these that all the important opportunities came.”

He sums up our experiences with the view that “as a student at Sussex, one was very aware that you were part of a developing institution. You had a clear sense that your voice was influential in shaping the immediate and long-term future.”

This has been of immense value in our careers, instilling the idea that it was right to look critically at what we do, and to be willing to change and to lead change. Doug reflected on how our time at Sussex had shaped each of our futures.

Such were the bonds between us from that period, we have kept in touch. All four of us went on to further post graduate qualifications and pursued careers in the public or academic sector, taking forward those basic doctrines captured again in the phrase from the Sussex 2025 Strategic Framework “Disruptive by Design”.

If you are thinking of organising your own reunion, our alumni team would be delighted to give you advice or assist you and we offer a range of services to help you make the most of your visit. Find our more here 

By: Sally Atkinson
Last updated: Wednesday, 6 November 2019