A blast from the past
Got a begging ‘phone call this afternoon.
Not the usual spam at all, but one from my alma mater. They would like their alumni to make contributions of a financial nature, and they’re targeting people like me who they suppose to have money.
‘Twas a young lady who called (I expect that’s best marketing practice when targeting middle-aged men). I didn’t catch her name, but she’s a third-year undergrad. She caught me at a good time, so we had a bit of a chat, and she told me of some recent developments at the old place.
Turns out she’s a singer (too), and Girton now has a real musical reputation. Well, that’s quite a contrast from my time, when it had very little, and the organ scholar in my year was making valiant efforts (some funnier than others) to get at least something going. So we exchanged anecdotes on music then and now, all of which was mildly interesting.
But it occurs to me: if I donate to education (other than through my taxes), should that donation really be targeted at Cambridge? Yes, I loved my time there, and would recommend it to anyone. But it’s one of two universities in my past: some years after my Cambridge days I did research at Sheffield.
Now Sheffield is well-reputed, but not ivy-league, and it doesn’t have the luxury Cambridge does of a large surplus of the strongest applicants in every year. Nor does it have Cambridge’s historical legacy of immense wealth (admittedly, neither does Girton). Yet my impression was that many of the Sheffield students I encountered were doing much better work than my contemporaries and I had done at Cambridge.
Which of these institutions should be more deserving of my hypothetical largesse? Answer I think: neither as such. If I were to donate to either of them, it would be have to be to something rather more specific. And yes, today’s girton girl mentioned a specific project, but minor building works in the tower area don’t really catch the imagination very powerfully. Cambridge’s strongest claim to precedence would perhaps be in the context of helping some brilliant but impoverished young person realise a dream.
I wonder how many of our non-ivy-league universities make this kind of efforts to tap their alumni?