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This week’s blog is from our very own Alumni and Development Manager, Fiona Roberts. Soon to be an alumna herself, Fiona is our expert on all things alumni! So take a break and delve into our treasure trove of memorabilia and nostalgia, as we wander down memory lane with Fiona and talk all things alumni…

“One of the greatest privileges in being the Alumni and Development Manager is getting to meet alumni of this institution – in whichever phase of its life! I have chatted with a 103 year-old and quizzed an octogenarian; researched with a septuagenarian and dined with a sexagenarian – all of whom are proud to call themselves alumni!

“Then taking things a stage further, I have also met a number of people who make contact because either their father or grandfather studied here… or occasionally, both! Sometimes they know for a fact he studied here, other times they have a hunch and are looking to find answers to a tiny amount of information they have uncovered.

“There is no greater buzz than being able to walk along the corridor of class photos in Old College and show a family the photo taken the year that their ancestor was here. It’s great fun asking them if they can spot them!

Year photos

“We have over 60 class photos, ranging from 1892 to 1999, and they are such a treasure trove. Recently we were contacted by a local lady who had read about our archive of memorabilia and wanted to make a donation. She told me her father studied here from 1911-13 and had enjoyed a long career in teaching, apart from a few years serving in the Second World War. At that time, Chester College was all-male and the Teacher Training Certificate was achieved after two years of study which included teaching practice in the North West.

“I checked our wall of class photos: nothing for 1913… but, by pure luck, we did have a photo taken in 1912, which unusually had a list of names below it (surname only in that era). The names appeared to be in formation to match the men pictured. I asked the lady if she could identify her father – he was there!


“It would be amazing if we could find the missing year photos and have a full complement showing a century of students along the corridor. We have made some progress by borrowing and scanning a few loaned to us by alumni. This is an ongoing project, but well worth the effort. If you have a photo from 1962 / 1965 / 1978, we would love to hear from you!


Ann Cowen with father's blazer

Ann Cowen (pictured) followed in her father’s footsteps and became a teacher. Here she is handing over his blazer which he wore in the 1930s – 50 years after she started her teacher training!


“Memorabilia isn’t only about the distant past however. Recently, we have received donations from a lecturer who taught from the mid-1980s, and as she rightly pointed out, it won’t be long before items from the current times will be viewed as artefacts!

“We learn something from every alum who connects with us, and we value what they impart. The details they provide are solid gold for us to be able to gain an insight into life as a student during a particular point in time. Old photos and documents are brilliant social markers – look at what a student bedroom was like in 1956 (see below)! We love helping old friends to stay in touch too, though we are always mindful of privacy and the Data Protection Act requirements.


“It’s so important to connect with our former students and keep them feeling involved and a part of the University of Chester community. One member of the University of Chester Alumni Association (UCAA) made a poignant observation: “By understanding our past, we can frame our future”. We are confident that the strong foundations of this institution have enabled thousands of students to pass through our doors and go on to have long and successful careers around the world. Some even return for postgraduate studies! Our University isn’t standing still; it is constantly changing and developing new avenues for research, courses and partners… making history!”

In the new year, we will be launching our latest project: The University of Chester in 100 Objects. We will be posting a series of objects on our social media, nominated by students, staff and alumni, that are special to their time at the University of Chester / Chester College. If you have a particular piece of memorabilia, or even a place on campus, that you would like to nominate, please let us know!

If you would like a tour round your alma mater, to donate your memorabilia, or would like to find out more about continuing your qualifications with us, just give us a call (01244 511091) or email We can’t wait to see you!

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