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Donor Report 2020

Student with rowing trophies, Wolfson College Cambridge

Our Report celebrates the generosity of our supporters and the difference they have made in the past year.

From our Development Director

As we commence the new academic year and reflect on the challenges and achievements of 2019–2020, we have experienced what must surely be one of the most unexpected years in Wolfson’s history.

Our academic year split into two. At the outset, our goals were to develop our alumni networks at home and abroad and to fundraise in support of Wolfson’s strategic plan. Six months into the year, we welcomed more alumni at events than ever before, saw a positive upwards trend in donors at all giving levels and launched the President’s Circle with a gathering for over 100 major donors in the President’s Lodge.

Then COVID arrived and that’s when our community really stepped up and came into its own. Here in the Development Office we moved all events online and aimed to keep you updated with College news through a monthly e-news and personal letters from the President. We were open about the challenges the College faced, our finances and the uncertainty created by the pandemic. You responded with warmth and generosity.

On behalf of everyone at Wolfson and all those who have benefitted from your kindness, we cannot thank you enough for your messages of support and goodwill and for your many gifts — we are indeed better together.

This academic year you can be sure that we are moving forward in support of our global networks and community and the College’s financial health and strategic priorities, raising funds for our researchers and students as they strive to make the world better.

Sian Cook, Development Director

Sian Cook, Development Director

With your support and generosity, in 2020 we were able to award over £1 million to 265 different students.

Nearly every aspect of life at Wolfson has been affected by the global COVID pandemic.

Bursar Jo Cheffins in our Wolfson mask

Bursar Jo Cheffins with our Wolfson-branded mask, a community initiative by our Emeritus Fellows.

Bursar Jo Cheffins with our Wolfson-branded mask, a community initiative by our Emeritus Fellows.

Coming together as a community

Over the summer, around the time of our 55th anniversary, usually a time of celebration and get-togethers, a special COVID Emergency Appeal became the focus of fundraising efforts. The College urgently needed funding to make Wolfson COVID-secure (such as providing masks, screens and hand-sanitising stations) which enabled us to open up again to students, staff and members; providing bursaries and grants to students in greatest financial need; and to allow for financial resilience at a time when the College experienced a drop in income of £900K — meaning we were able to deploy funds in a flexible and timely way. The support of so many of our members, through their donations and kind messages has been a tremendous boost. Wolfson is a truly special community.

  • Professor Shi Liu (1989) and his wife Mrs Yolanda Chi very kindly donated 33,000 face coverings for use at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the College.
  • Alumnus Lucas Jiang (2003) also donated a number of disposable face coverings to the College.
  • The Society of Emeritus Fellows has been raising funds to help College provide Wolfson-branded washable face coverings for staff and students.

Growing talent through partnerships

Nima Meyer came to Wolfson in 2017 to do his PhD in Materials Science, having received funding through Wolfson’s partnership with Geistlich Pharma AG, which has close ties with his department. He considered a few Colleges closer to his department, but says, “Wolfson chose me”. He has played an active part in the Wolfson community since his arrival, being President of the 2020 May Ball (sadly cancelled due to COVID) and involved with football coaching at College. Nima’s research focuses on culturing different cell types in collagen-based sponges to make blood vessels. The hope is that in future these scaffolds can support blood vessel growth after implantation into the human body. These are expensive experiments and were only made possible thanks to the funding given by Geistlich Pharma. Nima also visited Geistlich in Lucerne, Switzerland, where he exchanged knowledge and ideas with members of the Geistlich team and made use of the company’s equipment.

In February 2020, Nima’s blood vessels were growing effectively, but his lab was subsequently closed due to the lockdown. It was vital that the cells be checked every three days, and luckily the team at Geistlich offered to prepare and analyse the cells at their laboratory in Switzerland.

By partnering with companies like Geistlich and with departments across the University, we are able to offer full PhD scholarships to the most promising researchers.

Major gift transforms our Porters' Lodge

Thanks to a gift from an alumnus, our Porters' Lodge underwent a major quality-of-life renovation over the summer. The previous Lodge dates back to the College's first building phase in the 1970s, and the renovation has created a more comfortable environment for our staff and a better user experience for our students and visitors.

There is now ample space for two people to work side-by-side, a secure storage area, and a new room for the Porters to rest. The Lodge is also more accessible: we now have a second, lower counter for wheelchair users. To provide visual continuity with the Club Room, the Lodge is panelled with sustainably sourced oak as well as oak veneer. The light fixtures have been replaced with more energy-friendly LED lighting, helping the College reduce its annual upkeep costs.

Head Porter Mike Wignall says, “Wolfson has become more vibrant over the years. With more people in, we needed more staff and a bigger workspace. In the new Lodge the staff are well looked after, and we have the scope to serve the customers a little better."

Wolfson BME MPhil Awards

We are excited to launch a new fund specifically for MPhil students from BME backgrounds who have experienced educational disadvantage. This will provide funding to bridge the gap between undergraduate and postgraduate study. We are seeking donations in increments of £1,000 and are delighted that we have already received contributions. You can find out more about the fund and contribute at our BME MPhil Fund page.

My time at Wolfson was a truly wonderful and eye-opening education on the diverse paths we each take in our academic careers. Wolfson is the epicentre of Cantabrigian diversity, and gave me the desire to give back and support the College in its mission of academic inclusivity and excellence.
Graham Mills (2014), Wolfson donor

Launch of The President's Circle

A reception to celebrate the launch of The President’s Circle was held at the President’s Lodge in early November 2019. It was attended by more than one hundred people who were invited to become founding members. The President’s Circle is a group of people whose giving has had a transformative effect on the College.

Derek Ingram Press Fellowship

The Wolfson College Commonwealth Journalists Association Derek Ingram Fellowship was established in honour of the long and distinguished career of Derek Ingram OBE and his outstanding work as a journalist. Derek was passionate in his encouragement of journalists, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds. This award recognises Derek, not only as an eminent journalist and advocate of human rights but also as a friend of Wolfson College. The first award will be made for a journalist to study in 2021. More about the Fellowship can be found in our announcement earlier this year.

The College Accounts

The College is a Registered Charity (No. 1138143). Our audited Annual Report and Financial Statements for 2019/20 are available to view online.

From our students

I have made lifelong friends at Wolfson; I even met my partner in the Club Room! Without the funding I received from Wolfson donors, I would not have been able to study at Cambridge. It gave me the opportunity to pursue my interest in mental health, learn from experts, and challenge myself. I will always look back at this period of my life with a particular fondness.

Anna Chaplin, PhD Biological Science (2017)

During lockdown we were lucky to have our College garden, so we could take a walk, relax or study, and we received all kinds of support from the College. I have made friends who are interested in different subjects and learned so much from them. Wolfson has helped me maintain a good work-life balance, so I am not overwhelmed by the PhD life. Receiving funding has been a great motivation for me and I have made huge progress toward the submission of my first paper and initiated new projects.

Yingyue Luan, PhD Management Studies (2019)

The funding has allowed me to have an incredible time so far where I have been able to engage with my academic interests, join societies and make wonderful friends. The scholarships have been particularly helpful over the summer holidays where I usually spend most of my summer working in hospitality, I am now able to focus on gaps in my knowledge and reading around my academic interests in preparation for the advanced level of second year. I have also been able to spend my summer volunteering and supporting the college's virtual open days.

Leanne Gayle, BA History & Politics (2019)

We cannot thank you enough for your messages of support and goodwill and for your many gifts — we are indeed better together.

Wolfson College is a Registered Charity (No. 1138143). We promise to ensure our fundraising is legal, open, honest and respectful.

registered with fundraising regulator

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