04 June 2009

easter term dispatches

I meet Bill Gates Sr. Bill Gates père made his annual trip to Cambridge this week and addressed 140+ Gates Scholars following (surprise!) a big dinner at Wolfson College. He’s on the left in the slightly blurry shot above, along with the president of the Gates Scholars Society and the Vice-Chancellor of the University. (As an aside, the “Vice” part of her title is just a technicality; the official Chancellor is Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband, who has little involvement with the day-to-day administration of the University.)

The members of the Scholars Council were also invited to a luncheon with Mr. Gates and the other Trustees, but the seating arrangement and the late arrival of the VIPs conspired to prevent me from actually talking to him. Fortunately, he also attended a symposium in the Gates Room where a few scholars presented their research, and I managed to snag about 45 seconds of conversation during one of the breaks. It was about enough time to thank him for the note he sent me back in November and ask him a question about the Gates Foundation’s advocacy work in DC. We were standing, somewhat awkwardly, near one of the Gates Room’s two Macs. If it ever bothered him, he must be over it by now. He’s a giant of a man—I had to tilt my head upward at a pretty significant angle to make conversation—and at 83, he shows no sign of slowing down his activities with his son’s philanthropies.

The formal hall scoreboard. Following the brouhaha over my post about Cameroonian English, it was nice to see one of my blog entries get picked up in a friendlier environment. I just discovered that my “Ode to Formal Hall” was excerpted several months back on this website, which advocates for greater adoption of Oxbridge-style college systems at universities.

At the time I wrote that ode I had six college formals under my belt, and though I never had a numeral target, I’m proud (??) to report that I now have 18 conquests: Emmanuel, Peterhouse, Churchill, Christ’s, Trinity, Newnham, Homerton, Hughes Hall, Pembroke, Queen’s, Robinson, Magdalene, St. John’s, Gonville and Caius, Jesus, Darwin, Corpus Christi, and Selwyn. An MBA friend of mine is close to hitting up all 31 this year, but I don't know of anyone else who's in the same range.

During the above-mentioned luncheon with Bill Gates Sr., I was seated next to the provost of the Gates Cambridge Trust, who is basically the Cambridge-based CEO of the Trust. He also happens to be the president of Wolfson College, where the larger dinner with Bill Gates Sr. was held. He’s retiring next year and told me that “you have no idea how disconcerting it is to see your job advertised in the newspaper.” At one point during lunch the topic of my proclivity for formal halls came up, and I mentioned that I wasn’t sure if the Wolfson dinner should count, as it wasn’t technically a college formal. He told me, with a chuckle, that he didn’t think it should count and that I would have to come back another time. So I guess I have to take a ruling from the president of the college concerned as definitive, and the scoreboard remains at 18.

No comments: