The first international exchanges at Keele

Keele University has developed one of the most extensive and successful study abroad programmes in the UK. Every good thing has a beginning and our first two exchange programmes started in the 1950s with Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and Reed College in Oregon.

The earliest recorded overseas student that we have identified is Edward Lee Spencer, Jr, of Alabama. Edward says

"I was at Keele in the 1952-53 school year as a Fulbright Scholar. My field was economics and Bruce Williams was my professor. A few names come to mind from that time but there was only one Brenda Jones (Duthie) (1955). Her father was a doctor and they supplied me with nutrition and nurture."

“Saul Sternberg came from Swarthmore in the early fifties. He must have been the first exchange student to Keele. He had one of the few guitars on site at the time.”

Anna Swiatecka (1954)

"Saul Sternberg came from Swarthmore and I think he was at Keele in 51-52. Bob Sanford, the son of Robert Nevitt Sanford, of The Authoritarian Personality fame was at Keele in 1951-52, while his father was at the Tavistock Clinic (having refused to take an oath of loyalty or allegiance or something during the McCarthy era.). There was a Roger Boyd who came from a college in Maine in about 1953-54 and a man from Birmingham, Alabama, called Ed, again in about 1953 or 1954.”

Josephine Gately (1955)

“I have a photo of my hut-mates including Saul Sternberg from Swarthmore.”

Martin Tunnicliffe (1956)

“I was a one-year US exchange student from Swarthmore College in 1953-54.”

Ronald Decker (1954)

"Stuart Milner was the very first Keele undergraduate to spend a year at Swarthmore. I think it was 1954-1955 but it may have been a year earlier. Stuart had to work hard to persuade the Senate to let him go."

Keith Clement (1956)

stuart-milner “Ron Decker was the second student to come over after Saul Sternberg. I knew him quite well as he was the star of our basketball team when I was the captain. I also saw him again in Chicago during my round America trip. There is some very interesting background to the Exchange coming to light: the Dean at Swarthmore, Gilmore Stott, had been a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol in 1938 where he obviously met Lord Lindsay and would doubtless have made contact with Balliol again when he served in the American forces in the UK in the 40's. It was Dean Stott who put the idea to Saul Sternberg of spending his junior year at Keele, who then exhorted another student to do likewise and Ron Decker accepted the challenge.”

Stuart Milner (1957) Photo: Stuart Milner

“Harriet (Trink) Mangrum came from Swarthmore to Keele in 1955-1956."

Pauline Hanna (Jones) (1959)

“One Swarthmore exchange student was Becky Parfitt. The Reed exchange student the same year was called Ruth Scolnick from New York City.”

Tessa Harding (Phillips) (1961)

"Dave Swanger was from Swarthmore and is now at the University of Santa Cruz. He was the exchange student 1961/62 when we all first arrived at Keele."

Mike Cantor (1965)

coffee-group-250x160 “I was the exchange student from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, to Keele, for 1962-1963. I studied English, French, and German. I graduated from Swarthmore in June of 1964. The year I was at Keele, the other American who was there was a student from Reed College in Oregon whose name was Ruth. I have just now forgotten her surname. We were the only two Americans at Keele that year.”

Becky Parfitt (1963) Photo: Coffee at Keele 1950s style

“Can anyone remember the name of the American exchange student who came over from Swathmore in the early 60's? I can't remember his name, alas.”

Sue Gil (Devons) (1963)

“It was Mike Vitello but I may have the misspelled his last name. He was a member of the all-conquering basketabll team with myself, Pete Waldock, John Campbell and...?”

Dick Blackett (1969)

“Lew Lutton came to Keele from Swarthmore in 1965-66.”

Tony Barrand (1968)

"I was a Swarthmore College exchange student at Keele during 1968-69 school year."

Joseph L Kelly (1969)

“in the 1970s production of Macbeth, the American witch was Connie Moffatt, all the way from Meadville, Pennsylvania. She also directed a production of Anouilh's Antigone in the Student Union, bringing to bear some of the improv work they did at Swarthmore, where she was an undergraduate.”

Roland Goodbdy (1975)

kohp-hut37-250x185 “In answer to the question about the Reed College exchange, the first was Paul Mockett in 1957-58 and I was the second in 1958-59. I graduated from Reed College in 1960, so I have no idea of who came to Keele during the next couple of years, although I remember hearing some wild tales about a young woman named Ruth something who made quite an impression. While I was teaching at Keele in the mid-Sixties, I remember Robert Morris and Linda Blackwelder. There was also a faculty exchange between Reed and Keele during the Sixties. For some reason, Reed sent some of its most heavy drinking senior faculty to Keele, such as Charles "Bud" Bagg and Donald McRae. I recall that Bud gave a long alcoholic disquisition on guns and calibres at the Sneyd Arms on the night after the Kennedy assassination, and confessed to me some time that same month that he didn't know where the Keele Library was! They also sent an Economics professor whose name escapes me at the moment. W J "John" Harvey, the major star of the Keele English Department, was at Reed in 1959-60, where he made quite an impression. He dedicated his next book to the Reed students he had taught.”

Bill Bernhardt (1959) Photo: Keelites from Hut 37 1950s

“The girl I remember was very attractive, dark and tall but typically "preppie". I also remember white socks shorts and something like trainers probably gym shoes. I can't remember the male at all so he must have been less inspiring! I think she served on Union committee while she was with us.”

Dot Bell (Pitman) (1959)

"I was the exchange student from Reed in 1965-1966"

Bob Morris (1966)

“We had a Ralph Bunche II from the States. He was at Keele for two years working on a higher degree. He was the son of the Ralph Bunche who received the 1950 Noble Peace Prize He came from Reed College. His son Ralph Bunche III graduated Keele in 2000”

Bill Proctor (1968)

“I seem to remember going to some of American Bill Bernhardt’s classes at Keele – it must have been 1963 or 1964. I then spent 1965-1966 at Swarthmore and found myself (for the only time in my life I hasten to add) as the 'cover girl' on a Swarthmore Alumni magazine. Memories… I have them by the bucketful and still meet, from time to time, the girl I roomed with in 1965. We are now both grandmothers but otherwise pretty much the same people we were then! It was a year I relished and still remember with great warmth.”

Barbara Thomas (Stagg) (1967)


“In the 1968 final Keele beat Jesus College, Cambridge. Between filming and transmission one of the Jesus team, Richard Hutt, died in an accident. His parents allowed transmission to go ahead. There was much excitement when a female student who accompanied us bumped into Elsie Tanner in the ladies’ loos at Granada. We reappeared in a Christmas special at the end of 1968, playing the team from St Hilda’s, Oxford, who in previous series had got a lot of attention because of being both pretty and brainy. We beat them. At the time of the Christmas special I was an exchange student at Swarthmore in the USA. Granada flew me over for the Christmas special. I remember an evening at Swarthmore when I got a message telling me to go to the switchboard because there was a telegram for me from England. I raced across, convinced it meant a death in the family... only to find it was from Granada, saying they wanted to fly me over. It was one of the best get-out-of-classes excuses ever. I polished my delivery and enjoyed delivering it.
“Miss Snyder, I’m afraid I shan’t be in class next week”.
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“British television is flying me over for an appearance.””

Paul Brownsey (1970)

“Of the Keelites who went to Swarthmore (and thereby became Swatties) I know where Tony Barrand and Paul Brownsey are. I am also in touch with two Swatties who came to Keele - Joe Kelly and Ron Miller. The guy who went to Reed in 'my' year (1969-70) was Tony Waters, who is still friendly with Gerry Northam. The Reed exchangee from about 1967-8 (Frank ?) met his wife over there. I went back to a 40th reunion with the Swarthmore class of 1971 earlier this year – a really good weekend. Of course not all exchangees got the life changing buzz that I did - I understand that at least one Keele person and one Swarthmorean returned to their respective homes quite early in their exchange years having decided that this was not an opportunity suitable for them.”

Phil Davies (1971)

"Donald McRae was an exchange faculty member from Reed College in 1960. He occupied an extremely small and narrow room in Keele Hall. It possibly was an ex-broom cupboard. You had to get to your tutorial quickly otherwise you couldn't get in. Some of us were a bit slow and found ourselves sitting in a corridor. We could hear him but not see him. He had a beautifully modulated voice. I always enjoyed our tutorials with him. He was not particularly demanding and used to roam around a lot verbally and had none of the sarcasm, irony and self-importance of some of the other staff of the English department: he was open and generous and not a 'put-down' person. Outstanding were his clothes. He had the most US-traditional and well-cut three-piece suits I have ever seen. These were Brooks' Brothers plus, in fine tweed. His suits had those roll-over lapels that only Americans seem to know how to tailor. And he affected a gold watch-chain and fob with a cross-piece attached to a button-hole in his waistcoat. I don't remember a thing about 'work' with him but I vaguely remember something about Alexander Pope! He was a lovely man.”

John Idris Jones (1961)

kohp-john-Iaonnou-1961-250x275 "So far as I am concerned, two experiences made Keele very special, unique even – the Foundation Year, and the Reed exchange programme. It is no exaggeration to say that the Foundation Year changed my life. This might be true of University life anyway, but as a result of the Foundation year I moved into a whole new sphere of activity.... When I was lucky enough to be offered the Reed exchange I had no idea what Oregon might be like, my impressions of the USA being formed by the usual diet of cowboy and gangster pictures we all had in our youth. I had travelled abroad, probably more than most since my family originated from Cyprus, and we returned at intervals to visit. But the idea of going west rather than east filled me with excitement. Crossing the Atlantic in 1960 meant a 5-day sea voyage from Southampton. I travelled by Europe-Canada line to Montreal, then down by Greyhound to New York, where I found a summer job in an electronics factory. At the end of the summer my boss bought me a flight to San Francisco as he didn’t like the idea of me sitting on a Greyhound for a week (this unsolicited generosity was characteristic of most Americans I met, and has coloured my attitude to the USA ever since). After a week in San Francisco (where I met some fellow Reed students, but that’s another story...) I travelled up to Portland. At that time, Reed was even smaller than Keele (a student body of about 500, I believe) and very liberated – no bras, informal student/tutor relations, deep discussions about the meaning of life, over endless cups of proper coffee (virtually unobtainable in England at that time). Hardly anyone drank alcohol, but plenty of folk smoked pot and used the peyote cactus. Politically, left-wing views were prevalent, together with a great feeling of optimism – John F Kennedy was running for President, and those extraordinary TV debates with Richard Nixon made it certain that he got most Reed votes. I was able to work in the campus coffee-shop, did some Botany tutoring and helped one of the Economics profs, so I got along. During the vacations I was able to travel up and down the west coast. Finally, and very regretfully I left in September1961 to hitch-hike from Seattle back to New York (about 3000 miles) to catch my ship back to Southampton and eventually back to Keele for my final year. As you might imagine, this exchange year was a life-enhancing experience for me.”

John Ioannou (1962) Photo: John Ioannou returns from the USA in 1961

“I was lucky enough to get the Reed Exchange scholarship for 1971/72 and like other Reed scholars before and since, I found it a wonderful experience that influenced much of what I did thereafter. Reed was not an entirely unknown quantity because I had already spend an interesting two weeks in Oregon with Reedies on a previous summer vacation hitchhike across the US, but the full year abroad in Portland was an altogether deeper experience. Even getting there was surreal. Money was short so I started in Washington DC with old family friends and through a University of Maryland notice-board (pre-electronic of course) found someone going to Portland who wanted to share driving and petrol costs. Three of us thus headed west in a beat up Mercedes towing a U-Haul trailer and because it was heavy going I talked the other two into making a diversion further north than planned so we could drop in - entirely unannounced - on Californian friends I had met the year before who had subsequently bought a farm in the middle of nowhere, Illinois. A great move and the ensuing smoke and alcohol fuelled revelry only got better when a second unexpected car pulled in containing another mutual San Francisco friend; he was hitching to New York for a wedding and had also persuaded his driver to make the same detour. A quite extraordinary conjunction of unlikely events. The old Mercedes never made it to Portland, it died the death near Pendleton and I hitched the last couple of hundred miles alone, but the money saved helped ensure that Sue Vines, now Smallwood, was able to join me at Reed via helicopter and plane. And there we lived happily in a Reed dorm and survived very well sharing a single meal plan. Oh happy days. Reedies were wonderful, in many ways less socially confident than their suave European counterparts but fiercely intelligent and open to new ideas in ways that we can never be. Perhaps we Europeans have just too much historical baggage, but I felt then and I felt it even more strongly as a diplomat in Brazil years later, that the New World has a unique dynamism which you can only touch by being there. That is why I firmly believe that study abroad is one of the best investments we can make in higher education and why I am prouder of my part in managing the Erasmus programme than of anything else I have ever done. My last posting before retirement last year was the EU delegation in Washington and although, to my shame, I never made it back to Reed, I did meet up again with lots of old Reedies and with the same Washington DC family with whom I had stayed on my way to Reed all those years ago. As they say over there, what goes around, comes around.”

Anthony Smallwood (1973)

"I did a one-year Keele exchange scholarship to Reed College, Portland, Oregon and met Nancy Johanssen, who was a student thereI returned to Keele in the fall of 1976 and Nancy came to Keele to study for her MA under Professor David Adams in 1977-78. After we got married we moved back to Portland and we are vey involved in alumni relations and reunions at Reed College - and with Keele, too, of course. We are both alumni of both institutions!"

Kevin Morrice (1978) and Nancy Johnassen Morrice (1977)

kohp-june-grocott-carte-detudiant “I was probably the first Keele student to study abroad. In my third year of French and German I spent three months at the University of Nancy, France, on a course at the Centre Européen. We studied the Coal and Steel Community, the precursor of the European Union, which was newly formed. My fellow students included German, Yugoslav, Italian, Spanish and French, and many were mature people. We were housed in a Foyer d'Etudiants on the Avenue de la Libération. This was only eight years after the end of the war! On my return one of our Politics students was very happy to have my cyclo-styled notes. For me, it was part of the life-enhancing Keele experience, opening my eyes to a wider world.”

June Grocott (Kirkman) 1954 Photo: Joan Grocott's Carte d'Etudiant