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2018 Alumni Weekend in North America April 6-7, 2018 • San Francisco, ca

Friday Night Drinks Reception and Gala Dinner

Oxonians did not let the weather rain on their parade!

Oxford alumni and their guests took part in engaging social and academic events throughout the 2018 Alumni Weekend in San Francisco. Guests, invited scholars, and politicians shared their views on issues ranging from the political climate in America to their latest research on the internet, sleep and circadian rhythms, literature, medical equipment and “The British American Dream.” Highlights included dinner at the historic Ferry Building, an exhibition of original J.R.R. Tolkien artwork, and a discussion on philanthropy and innovation between Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti (The Queen’s College, 1993) and Mr. Reid Hoffman, CBE (Wolfson College, 1990).

The Alumni Weekend in North America, organized by Oxford’s North American Office, took place on 6 and 7 April, and it was the first time the gathering had taken place on the west coast. Guests who stayed at the Westin St. Francis were conveniently located near some of San Francisco’s most famous sites: Union Square, Chinatown and the Fisherman’s Wharf.

This year’s gala dinner brought more alumni and their guests together than ever before, selling out weeks in advance. The night started with drinks on the 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis. Despite the San Francisco fog, alumni and guests were still able to enjoy outstanding views from the top of the hotel including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Dinner at the Ferry Building followed, where guests were welcomed by the Chancellor, Lord Batten of Barnes and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson. Following remarks, alumni and friends were entertained by moving renditions of Moon River and Somewhere Over the Rainbow sung by The Choir of The Queen’s College.

Michael G. Cunningham, Executive Director, University of Oxford North American Office

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson

The Chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes

Saturday Academic Program

40 Colleges and Permanent Private Halls were represented by alumni at the 2018 Alumni Weekend.

Mr. Reid Hoffman, CBE (Wolfson College, 1990) in conversation with Mayor Eric Garcetti (The Queen’s College, 1993).

The Saturday academic program commenced with two Oxford Conversations, one between The Chancellor and Sir Michael Moritz (Christ Church, 1973), and the second between Mr. Reid Hoffman and Mayor Eric Garcetti. The first discussion provided alumni and guests career advice including “follow your instincts” and “be willing to place your trust in people who are unproven, their loyalty to you will be unfailing.” Sir Michael Moritz shared, “I don’t believe in careers, I believe in a life” which testifies to his winding career path as well as his current success as a Venture Capitalist. In the second Oxford Conversation, Mayor Eric Garcetti stressed the importance of listening, a skill he learned while studying at Oxford. “Oxford University helped me in my political career because it taught me how to listen. If you step back and listen and process, you can accomplish and understand much more.” He also discussed how the city of Los Angeles is becoming more innovative and efficient and spoke of current projects such as drone deliveries, vertical plane take-off and traffic tunneling.

Alumni and guests also took part in a number of fascinating lectures by current Oxford Professors. The first lecture was given by Professor Phil Howard who is the Director of Research and Professor of Internet Studies at the Oxford Institute (OII). His lecture focused on fake news via social media and the threat it poses to democracy. Professor Howard explained that the fake to real news ratio in the United States is 1:1, a concerning statistic, which points to the country’s need for a strong cyber security strategy. Professor Russell Foster CBE, FRS, who is the Head of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology and Director of the Sleep and Circadian Research Institute, also lectured on how “sleep is the most powerful cognitive enhancer that we have.”

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth

TOLKIEN: MAKER OF MIDDLE-EARTH -- J.R.R. Tolkien was a distinguished philologist who taught at the University of Oxford for 34 years, first as the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, and later as the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature. He was also one of the most influential and popular fantasy authors of the twentieth century. His children’s book, The Hobbit, was published in 1937 and hailed as an instant classic, winning the New York Herald Tribune prize in 1938 for the best book for younger children published in the United States. Its success emboldened him to write a sequel which carried him beyond children’s fiction into the realm of adult fantasy. The final work, The Lord of the Rings, was completed in 1949 and published in the U.S. in three volumes, 1954-1956. Essentially an epic fairy story for adults, it was by no means assured of commercial success, but sales rose from respectable to stratospheric levels as its popularity grew in the 1960s, particularly among American college students. In June 2018, the Bodleian Libraries will open its summer exhibition ‘Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth.’ It will display treasures from the Tolkien archive, and for the first time in 50 years, reunite the manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Tolkien’s original drawings. We were delighted to show some highlights from the exhibition, including five beautiful watercolors painted especially for the first American edition of The Hobbit, the dust jacket design, as well as a recently-discovered printed map of Middle-earth, annotated by Tolkien and his illustrator Pauline Baynes.

Bodley's Librarian, Richard Ovenden, speaks to a guest at a Tolkien viewing.

The Saturday Academic Program continued into the afternoon with a presentation by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson. She shared her insights on the importance of keeping the expertise taught in the University relevant and accessible to all, while also voicing her concerns on Brexit and its impact on research funding and talent. The Vice-Chancellor also provided factoids on Oxford Universities’ latest research such as dolphins developing Alzheimer’s and Ancient Egyptians having tattoos.

The afternoon breakout sessions followed lunch with lectures by Professor Andy Orchard FRSC, FBA (Exeter College, 1985) and Professor J. Alison Noble OBE, FRS (St. Hugh’s College, 1983). Professor Orchard discussed Tolkien as an innovative and influential academic as well as a sublimely creative author. “Once you have language you have a people, then culture, then maps”! Alumni also had the opportunity to sit in on Professor Noble’s lecture about how ultrasound technology is becoming more portable, cost-effective, accurate and mass-accessible. The result may make it possible for anyone, anywhere to perform ultrasound-based decisions enhancing the standing of interdisciplinary machine-learning research.

Professor Richardson concluded the day’s events by moderating the discussion on the British American Dream with panelists Mr. Pete Flint (Magdalen College, 1993), Dr. James Manyika FRSA (Keble College, 1989) and Ms. Swati Mylavarapu (Wolfson College, 2005).

Rutha Astravas (St Antony's, 2001) traveled from Ottawa to attend the Alumni Weekend in San Francisco.
The Choir of The Queen's College performed at the Westin St. Francis to close the day's events.

Thank you to all alumni and guests for attending the 2018 Alumni Weekend in San Francisco! We hope to see you at one of our future events soon. For more information, please visit www.oxfordna.org

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