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Fulton bench honours Uni’s first VC

Prof Oliver Fulton (left) and Prof Penny Summerfield on the bench they have presented to the University of Sussex

A wooden bench presented to the University to mark its 50th anniversary is also a memorial to the first Vice-Chancellor and his wife.

The bench is a gift from Professor Oliver Fulton - son of the University's first Vice-Chancellor, Lord (John) Fulton and Lady (Jacqueline) Fulton - and Professor Penny Summerfield - a Sussex graduate three times over.

Appropriately, it is located next to the mulberry tree planted by Lord and Lady Fulton in 1967 to mark their departure from Sussex after eight happy and fulfilling years.

John Fulton had been appointed in 1959 to lead planning and preparations for the new University of Sussex and became Vice-Chancellor when it admitted its first students two years later.

Oliver Fulton, now Emeritus Professor of Higher Education at Lancaster University, was a young man at the time of his father's appointment.

"Sussex was the highlight of my father's professional life," he recalled at an informal ceremony on Tuesday (13 September) to inaugurate the bench.

The University was also special to his mother Jacqueline, Professor Fulton noted. "The mulberry tree was a symbol of the special attachment to Sussex for both of them," he said. "We hope that new generations will be inspired at this spot."

Professor Fulton's wife, Penny Summerfield, is now Professor of Modern History at the University of Manchester.

Her links with Sussex go back to 1970, when she arrived to do a BA in History. She stayed on at Sussex for her MA and DPhil before taking up academic posts at Durham, Lancaster and now Manchester.

Although Professor Summerfield never met Lord Fulton, who died in 1986, she heard many stories from Jacqueline of the early days at Sussex.

And at the inauguration of the bench, Professor Summerfield described it as a "thank you to all the wonderful people at Sussex" and "a memorial to John and Jacqueline".

The current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, thanked the couple for "a wonderful gift" and for their "words of wisdom" that had "put the bench and tree into context".

He presented them with a copy of Making the Future, the book published to celebrate the University's 50th anniversary and to tell the story of Sussex.

The title of the book - and of the University's strategic plan for 2009-15 - is taken from John Fulton's words when he stated that education is about "making the future".

And then the moment came for Professor Farthing to "declare this bench open - for sitting, thinking and, indeed, loving".

(It's at the bottom of the slope near the Library steps, in case you're wondering.)

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By: Alison Field
Last updated: Thursday, 15 September 2011