Mary White alumni exchange memories of 50 years

Published 20 June 2008

reunion.jpgThe University of New England’s Mary White College has already heard from about 250 of its alumni who are interested in attending the College’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in October.

They include people from all around Australia – and even overseas.

The College extended its search for ‘lost’ alumni during reunion events in Canberra and Sydney at the end of last month.

“At those functions, we appealed for people to help us find our lost alumni,” said the College Principal, Mrs Barb Shaw. “It’s amazing how many people are starting to contact us as a result. We’ve not only received e-mails about lost alumni, but bookings for the anniversary celebration, and offers of photographs and yearbooks for display over the celebration weekend, 4-6 October.”

About 40 alumni attended the reunion event in Canberra, held at the Australian Institute of Sport, and about 50 attended the Sydney event at Macquarie University’s Dunmore Lang College. “They represented every decade since the College was established,” Mrs Shaw said, “from the ’50s right through to the current decade.”

Each of the events took the form of a cocktail party followed by an illustrated talk on the history of Mary White College comparing photographs from the ’70s and the present day.  Jill Spilsbury (who was Principal of Mary White College from 1985 to 1998), accompanied Mrs Shaw on both evenings, along with College staff member Carolyn Coman-Jeffries and UNE’s Alumni Relations Officer, Jennifer Miller. The photograph displayed here, taken at the event in Sydney, shows Jill Spilsbury (right) with Dr Annette Salt (nee McPhillips), who was a  resident of Mary White College in 1958.

The program for the 50th Anniversary Celebration will begin on the evening of Saturday 4 October with a cocktail party at Saumarez Homestead, the birthplace of Frances Mary Fletcher White (Mary White). The White family was instrumental in the establishment of the New England University College (NEUC), the fledgling institution that developed into the University of New England, and Mary White was a member of the NEUC Advisory Council.

On Sunday 5 October there will be tours of Armidale, the University, and Mary  White College itself, followed by afternoon tea in the gardens of “Trevenna”, the Vice-Chancellor’s residence, and a formal dinner in the evening.

“Mary White is the first of UNE’s current residential colleges to celebrate the 50-year milestone,” Mrs Shaw said. “Listening to the alumni at the recent events in Canberra and Sydney, it was obvious that they still feel a connection to the College after all those years. They made lifelong friendships here and, as it was the first experience of living away from home for many of them, they speak fondly of the College as the place where they learnt to be independent.

“The 50th anniversary will be an opportunity to celebrate the many Mary  White College traditions that continue today, such as the formal dinners and the Saumarez Gardening Day.”