Roger dons his original graduation gown of 50 years ago for this summer's celebrations

Roger Daw, one of the University of Sussex’s first 38 graduates in 1964, will be wearing his original gown “used since in many a pantomime” when he attends as a special guest at this year’s graduation celebrations.

Roger DawRoger Daw today and in 1964.

The retired secondary school head teacher, now living in Seaford, is also looking forward to reminiscing with the six other former graduates from his cohort who will be attending Thursday’s (10 July)  ceremony at the Brighton Dome.

Roger, the son of a builder, won a scholarship to Latymer Upper School in North London and was expected to continue his education at Oxford or Cambridge.

“I came from a very working class background and I didn’t think I’d fit in at Oxbridge,” he remembers.  “I applied to Sussex because I liked the idea of it being a new university.  It was an amazing opportunity to be in at the start. 

“In the first year  there were only nine tutors and we had a lot of one-to-one tutorials.  I wanted to read English, but I was so captivated by our history tutor Asa Briggs that I switched to history. 

“But from the outset we were also studying other disciplines. We were doing English and philosophy and looking at ‘the modern European mind’.  It was a very innovative approach.  It certainly opened my mind and shaped my life, helping me to look beyond what I thought I could achieve.”

During his first year Roger stayed in digs in Brighton “for three pounds, fifteen shillings a week full board”, with much of his teaching taking place in buildings in Brighton.

By 1964, Basil Spence’s daring campus vision had begun to take shape. Falmer House was finished, the Library was open and other key buildings were under construction.

The fanfare around the beginning of Sussex, the first of the new universities of the 1960s, attracted much media attention.  Roger, now 71, remembers: “Prime Ministers kept appearing. And I’d find myself sitting for lunch in the Royal Pavilion, being served asparagus and not knowing what it was.

“I stayed on another year at Sussex to take a Certificate of Education. By the time I left,  the university had hundreds of students and a growing reputation as the place to be.  And I had a reputation for never missing a social event!”