Golden Graduates' Reunions

Keele University holds an annual reunion to celebrate its Golden Graduates - those who are celebrating the 50th anniversary since their graduation from Keele University or the University College of North Staffordshire.

2023 reunion - Class of 1973 and preceding years

We were thrilled to welcome back our Class of 1973, and preceding years, in June 2023. Our attendees enjoyed a three-course dinner in Keele Hall, speeches by our speakers (transcripts below), and there were archiver materials from the period 1969-1973 available. See who attended, and read the speeches, below.

Golden Graduates reunion attendees 2023 Attendees of our 2023 reunion. Please see the attendee list below for names.  

Chris P Baldwin - Geography and Geology, 1973

Mark Batten - Chemistry and Economics, 1973

Melanie Batten (nee Green) - History, Economics & Politics, 1973

Timothy Beasant - Physics and Psychology, 1973

Paul Bowers Isaacson (nee Isaacson) - Chemistry and Education (subsidiary Greek/Physics) plus Cert Ed, 1973

Veronica Bradney (nee Brown) - English and Philosophy with subsidiary Physics and Political Institutions, 1966

Martyn Brawn - Sociology and American Studies, 1973

Michael Collinson - Economics & History, 1973

Barrington Davies - Geography & Geology, 1973

Christopher Ensor - Sociology and Applied Social Studies, 1973

Susan T Fraser (nee Patten) - English and Philosophy and Education, 1963

Stephen Gillham - Economics and Geology, 1973

Susan Gillham (nee Tuffrey) - English and Law, 1974

Michael Hunt - Applied Social Studies and Sociology, 1973

Colin John - English and American Studies, 1973

John Kendrick - Law and Economics, 1973

Peter Kirby - French & Economics, 1974

Susan Nightingale (nee Lyth) - Social Studies with Diploma, 1966

Robert Smith - English and Politics, 1974

Neil "Nello" Baldwin

Golden Graduates were joined by the current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Trevor McMillan OBE and his wife; the current sabbatical officer team at the Students' Union; and the Alumni Relations (Advancement) team.


Hello, everyone - I’ve entitled this talk:

My Erratic Journey to Keele and How It Changed My Life

When I was asked to say a few words about how Keele changed my life, I knew I’d have to be very spare with those words, so I hope you’ll forgive me for starting with some personal context.
I was born in 1940; my mother died three months later. My dad was a regular soldier, serving in the Far East. My older sister and I, who were being looked after by our mother’s sister, were returned from Aldershot Barracks to Birkenhead, but her home was already over-crowded, and the German’s were bombing the nearby docks.

She had little choice, other than to have us all evacuated to a Lancashire hill village. I failed my eleven-plus from there twice and went to a Secondary Modern and later a Technical School, which I left at 15. Not only had I lost a year’s schooling, but I had no leaving qualifications. 

I started a printing apprenticeship, but when I reached sixteen, my Dad, who’d left the army and was working in Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the Central African Federation, found me a job on a tobacco estate. A little later I was working for a government agricultural agency, living in a tent and supervising tobacco growing around the villages. But, without any educational qualifications, I couldn’t hope for a viable career. So, I’d have to go back to school. Because my Dad was a civil servant, I was entitled to a place in a boarding school in Southern Rhodesia. 

After eight months I left that school with six ‘O’ level equivalents and, when I returned to Nyasaland, I got a job in a South African bank, where I worked for the next ten years. My heart wasn’t in banking, though; also, in 1964, the country had gained its Independence, so by 1968 I knew I had to leave Africa. 

I’d seen an old Ealing black and white film featuring Cecil Parker as a Probation Officer, which seemed to be a well-respected profession, so when my boss asked me what I intended to do, I told him I wanted to be one of them. The British Council provided me with a list of English universities, and I wrote at random to ten of them. Nine told me to apply via UCCA, but I received a personal letter from Bob Bessell, a tutor in the Sociology Department here, inviting me to visit Keele as soon as I got back to England – he even said he’d collect me from Stoke station. 
By a wonderful coincidence, Keele was running the very course I needed, since it carried a professional qualification alongside the degree. I was invited to an interview with Alan Iliffe, the Senior Tutor, but on the appointed day, I misjudged how long it would take me to get to Keele from Lancashire, and I was running late. Thinking I’d blown my chances, I phoned Alan on route, but he booked me into Keele Hall for the night, at no cost, and saw me on the following day. 
At the interview I told him I had no ‘A’ levels. ‘That’s not a problem for us,’ he said, ‘when you get home, write me an essay on any subject you like’. I chose the politics of Ethiopia, which I’d recently visited, and he subsequently accepted me for the 1969 intake. 

Unfortunately, though, my Education Authority turned me down for a grant for not having any ‘A’ levels. I was interviewed in Preston, but they were adamant. When I informed Alan, he said, ‘Leave it with me’, and within a week I was awarded a £450 mature student’s grant.

I was 29, straight from the bush and totally ignorant. For instance, what on earth was a ‘science subsidiary’? I didn’t even have a Maths ‘O’ level, let alone did I know anything about science. I got over those difficulties with considerable, and I suspect, ‘unofficial’ help from my personal tutor – Peter Baxendall (Maths), Professor Alan Gemmell (Biology) and Ron Maddison (Astronomy). My thanks, also, to Frank Doherty (English) who spotted that I had an aptitude for writing. None of them would have known how crucial their help had been to me. 

After a desperate Astronomy re-sit and, no doubt, some very generous marking from Ron Maddison, I struggled through FY, but, to be fair, I did attend every lecture, and wrote every essay.  Indeed, FY stood in for my lack of ‘A’ levels.

Chris Ensor will describe how we came to live off campus, and he’ll also say something about the Applied Social Studies Course.

In 1973, I was delighted to be awarded a third-class degree, which, together with the professional qualification, meant I could join the Inner London Probation Service with only a cursory interview. 
Fifty years on, I realise how very fortunate I am to have been an unwitting participant in Lord Lindsey’s famous ‘Keele Experiment’ and its compulsory Foundation Year. Heaven knows where I’d be if what I’ve just talked about hadn’t happened – certainly not here, talking and eating with you tonight. 

In a nutshell, I came here so I could get a job, and ended up with an education. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you Keele.

Thanks also to Lucy for asking me to say those few short words.

I’ve since written a memoir, which may be accepted by the Keele archive, in the hope that it might be of some interest, particularly to anyone researching Colonial Africa, or the Keele Experiment.

I persuaded Mike to move off campus for P 1-3 years and we bought a little terraced house in Hanley for 400 pounds. We them commuted to Keele for classes and tutorials etc. (I had a car).

We got quite involved in the community in our street and elsewhere in Stoke. For us this was very appropriate as we both took the BA in Sociology and Applied Social Studies with the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work included. Mike became a probation officer and I a community development officer for Salford and then Manchester Social Services. I think the opportunity to earn a BA and the recognized social work qualification at the same time that Keele offered was quite unique at the time.

To be honest, I hated living on campus having been in the "real" world for 2 years after leaving school. I was much happier living in a more "normal" community that a terraced house in Hanley offered! 

Like Mike, I really benefitted from Keele's willingness to accept students who didn't come straight from schools and whose A level grades were not great, or in Mike's case did not exist. I hope Keele is able to offer people like Mike and I this opportunity 50 years later.

Welcome to the Class of 1973 

Welcome to you all, on this anniversary, celebrating 50 years since you graduated from Keele. For some of you, I know this anniversary is an even bigger one, as we also have alumni here from 1963 and 1966. 

We have guests from all over the UK and abroad and I’ve been told that Chris Ensor travelled from Seattle which I think is the longest trip, so I sincerely hope the jet lag is kind.  

Thank you in advance to those who have volunteered to say a few words, Michael and Chris, I look forward to hearing your memories of Keele and indeed everyone else’s memories of their time here. 

Many of you may have visited Keele in the years since you graduated, and some may not. But I am sure all of you will agree that the campus has changed considerably since your time here. While the campus may have changed, Keele’s founding ethos and vision remains the same. To make a difference in society by providing innovative, high-quality education for students from all backgrounds and by undertaking world-leading research that transforms understanding and brings benefit to society, communities and individuals. 

I have been at Keele since 2015 and am lucky enough to live on campus. Over the years I have been privileged to hear what life on campus was like across the decades, since we were founded in 1949.  

For you I’m sure, life at Keele in the early 1970s was a unique experience shaped by the social, cultural, and educational landscape of the time. 

Throughout the 1970s, Keele University undertook various campus development projects to accommodate the growing student population. New accommodation blocks, lecture theatreS, and other facilities were constructed during this period. 

The 1970s were marked by student activism and political engagement worldwide, and Keele University was no exception. Students at Keele actively participated in protests, strikes, and demonstrations on campus, advocating for social justice issues, anti-war movements, and educational reforms.  

This period saw students raising their voices and being involved in shaping the political and social discourse of the time, and this is still reflected in our student voice today, of which I am sure you will hear more about from Jade, the Union Development and Democracy officer of Keele Students’ Union. 

Just as in the 1970s, the university provides an open and inclusive environment that encourages intellectual freedom, critical thinking, and the exploration of alternative ideas. 

Students are involved in elections, committees and campaigns and joining the fight against climate change. The student protests of the past have given students of today the opportunity to have their voices and opinions heard.   

Our student community continues to grow with an increasing student population and new courses such as Microbiology and Immunology and Orthotics and Prosthetics. We are also welcoming an increased number of international students whilst our world-class research continued across our Institutes for Global Health, Digitial Society, Social Inclusion and Sustainable Futures.  

Campus is wonderfully diverse, and we are exceptionally proud of our graduates and the alumni community they go on to join, working and living across over 160 countries and acting as ambassadors who represent the true legacy of Keele.  

I want to take this opportunity to share a few recent successes from Keele before I pass you on to Jade. 

In March this year we formally opened the Harper Keele Vet School building on campus, which you may have passed by the main entrance or can see from your Marriott hotel room window. This is one of the UK’s newest veterinary schools and welcomed its first intake of students in 2020. 

We also completed construction on Innovation Centre 7, Adding further trailblazing facilities to the University’s campus. IC7 will be the home of Keele’s new Digital Society Institute. It will focus on data and digital technology and help companies in the business, health, and cultural sectors to innovate and expand in a competitive and dynamic business environment. Bringing together academics, researchers and industry under one-roof to work together and exchange ideas. 

Sustainability remains as important as ever to Keele and Energy generation is now underway at the new Low Carbon Energy Generation Park on campus, marking an important milestone in Keele's journey to become carbon neutral by 2030. 

Featuring two wind turbines and 12,500 solar panels, as well as an industrial-sized battery to store the generated energy, the facility is generating up to 50% of the University’s campus electricity requirements from renewable sources, saving around 1,500 tonnes of carbon emissions each year. 

Our School of Medicine has also been ranked as the top performing medical school globally in the latest Planetary Health Report Card – and first in the UK for the third year running.   

And finally, and perhaps most impressively we also announced the news that a new report has revealed that Keele University contributes around half a billion pounds each year to the West Midlands economy, with nearly three quarters of this (£345m) in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire local enterprise area. 

So, I hope you join me in feeling pride for the institution as it is today whilst you remember how it was 50 years ago.  

I hope some of you can continue your Keele reunion by taking part in our Keele Day event on campus tomorrow.  I know some of the buildings I mentioned will be open for tours. There are plenty of activities from tours to talks from our academics. If you have any questions about the day, Lucy or Lauren from the alumni team will be happy to answer them. 

Hello everyone I’m Jade, the Union Development and Democracy officer of Keele Students’ Union. 

It is my pleasure on behalf of Keele students to welcome you today and I hope you all enjoy being back on campus! 

I hope I can do a bit to introduce you to student life at Keele, acknowledging of course the trials of these past few years and the impact this has had on our students.   

I’ve read and heard stories about what Keele was like for many of you throughout the decades and I’m excited to learn more that by exploring some of the archive material and memories that guests have shared with us.  

Like many of our students today, I’m sure what Keele means to each of you will be very different, but the one thing that I’m sure unites you all is the feeling of reminiscing, seeing familiar faces and remembering your time here. Despite a pandemic, a cost-of-living crisis and industrial action, I’m sure that the graduating class of 2023 know at their core, what it means to be a Keele student. 

As would have been the case for many of our alumni guests today, for many students, Keele is first time living away from home and the first-time meeting so many people from so many different parts of the country and all over the world.   

The foundation year, despite briefly becoming ‘unfashionable’ in higher education, is once again a major part of Keele for many students and many of us experience a broad-based, inter-disciplinary education and take elective modules from across different disciplines, giving us a wide view of the world and academia.  

Most study in the grounds of a beautiful campus where you can’t walk to lectures without bumping in to three or four of your friends. We’re a community that we've lovingly come to refer to as ‘the Bubble’. And we’re maybe one of the few places left in Britain where everyone really does know all their neighbours and it’s lovely. 

While some of these attributes have waxed and waned over time, they remain present and remain part of what makes Keele great for many of us.  

This past year has seen a lot of ups and downs ... 

The cost-of-living crisis has hit students hard. With a lack of support for the sector, The Students’ Union and University have both worked tirelessly to protect students. We saw the implementation of a further subsidised bus pass scheme, free menstrual products, permit reductions for students on healthcare courses, a university funded club and society hardship fund for next academic year, and affordable hot meals all over campus. 

For the first time in 12 years, our sports teams lost Varsity against Staffordshire University. This all came down to one penalty in the final game of futsal. Despite the loss, our energy was high and many of our teams played spectacular matches- with Womens’ Rugby winning 55-0, and men’s lacrosse 12-1. 

The mental health crisis keeps on growing, with many students still feeling the effects of the pandemic. From hosting wellbeing lounges and an array of activities during the day to prevent loneliness, to our Advice and Support Service signposting students and offering them advice; Keele SU continues to put students first and support them in every way possible.  

And of course, leading into the more positive parts of this year, it wouldn’t be Keele if I didn’t include a story from our keen, green beans! This year, the Students Union passed their Sustainability Action Plan. This plan looks at how the Union can adapt and grow in different ways to stay green. This includes Carbon literacy training for Union staff, faucet aerators, how we could be carbon neutral alongside the University, our new ‘hydration station’ and the creation of the Keele SU Sustainability working group! 

We are also sector leading for our work around harm reduction and drug and alcohol impact accreditation. Keele is one of the first Universities in the country to introduce a harm reduction policy which support and educates students with substance abuse problems before penalising them.  

As always, our Clubs and Societies continue to grow and flourish with a third of students now taking part. We now have over 150 combined clubs and societies, now including the likes of Korean Pop Society, Coding and Skydiving. Our Casual Gaming society and Islamic society have spent countless hours fundraising. Ultimate Frisbee and Womens Cricket have played nationally. These are just a few of the countless achievements of our students this year.  

And finally, we continue to represent students and their interests every day. Our scheme Networks gives students a bigger opportunity to get involved with campaigning and representation, this project, funded by the Strike Fund last year, currently has over 250 students involved. We also expanded student voices on our re-branded Union Assembly! To further academic representation, our Student Voice Rep review saw an increase in numbers, with around 350 voice reps, and 12 lead voice reps, also paid for by the Strike Fund. Our Welfare Officer also launched the Gender Identity fund which helps non-binary and transgender students to afford gender affirming items. We are one of the first Higher Education Institutes to do so. This is just a small little screenshot of some of the work we’ve been doing to make sure that students at Keele have their voices heard and their needs met.  

As for students now, for some of you - your memories of Keele are inseparable with the somewhat politically turbulent times. A time of demanding your voice be taken seriously by those in positions of authority. Listening to memories like these acts as a reminder that those who went before me would have bitten of my right arm to be sat where I am now.  

Student representatives now sit on virtually all decision-making bodies at the University and as a Students’ Union we make sure that at every available opportunity we use them to be a voice for students, as I hope my previous examples attest to.  

More broadly, Keele Students’ Union has undergone significant development since your time at Keele. We are now a registered charity with dedicated staff for our clubs and societies and a team of professional, confidential and impartial advisers who provide support and representation to students – who have dealt with over 700 cases so far this year, and this number continues to grow rapidly. 

Many of these fantastic, vital and student led projects are funded by alumni donations. So, on behalf of the students’ union, I’d like to thank you all for your generosity. Your contributions help drive forward Keele’s fantastic student projects help our students develop, lead and learn outside the classroom. 

 Keele remains a fantastic and vibrant community of communities. And more than ever before, students find themselves empowered to influence their life at university.  

But none of this means that for students that the fight is over. As with every generation, we push further and demand more from those in authority and from our society. Issues of education, race, sexuality, gender, the environment, housing, jobs, mental health and finances are on the forefront of most young activists' minds.  

While our methods of protest may change, I’m sure many of these causes may sound very similar to those you yourselves champion. 

Once again, I’d like to thank you all for the ongoing support you give to the Keele community.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse into student life today and have enjoyed your time back on campus. Thank you for listening.  

Refectory in 1960s

Archive image library

We collated some images of the University from the 1960s and 1970s that may rekindle your Keele memories...

View the archive image library