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Girton150: An exceptional gift announcement during an exceptional celebration of the founding of a pioneering College

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As over 1,000 alumni, Fellows, guests and students gather to mark 150 years of excellence and inclusion at the Girton150 Festival the Mistress, Professor Susan J. Smith, with great gratitude, is delighted to announce that the College has received one of the largest gifts in A Great Campaign. A Great Campaign was launched in 2012 with the aim of growing the endowment to secure a sustainable financial future for this unique institution where diversity and excellence go hand in hand.

Colin Tyler has donated a seven-figure gift in memory of his wife Margaret Tyler (née Hughes), who read Geography at Girton from 1953 to 1956. The gift will endow an early-career Research Fellowship in Geography that will help the incumbent establish a world-class research profile and gain significant teaching experience to form an all-important first step of their academic career. The post will be known as the Margaret Tyler Research Fellowship in Geography.

‘Girton is enormously grateful to Colin for this generous gift. The College has a rich tradition of supporting early career scholars through its Research Fellowship and post-doctoral engagement schemes. As a Geographer, I am especially thrilled to see Girton’s longstanding commitment to, and excellence in, that subject underpinned in this way. It is fitting that the first Girton Geography Research Fellowship can be announced in 2019, when not only does the College celebrate the 150th anniversary of its Foundation but the Geography Department, to which this award is linked, celebrates the Centenary of the Geography Tripos. That said, not only did Girton’s entrance exam include a compulsory Geography question from the very beginning and well into the 1890s, but a diploma was offered in the early 20th century. By the time the tripos was established Girton was ready to build Geography into one of its largest subjects. So this really is a very special gift.’ – Professor Susan J. Smith, Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge

Margaret greatly enjoyed her time at Girton and Cambridge. She once commented that ‘Being an only child I enjoyed the company of so many intelligent youngsters in my age group who came from all over Britain and abroad.’ It was during her undergraduate years that Margaret met Colin (who read Law at Emmanuel College). After graduation Margaret went on to teach Geography in Nottingham, Walsall and Solihull. Her family describe her as a vivacious person who enjoyed travelling, painting and the outdoor life. Margaret’s passion for Geography was present on every family trip and her sons, David and Richard, recall fondly her efforts to teach them about the world around them.

‘Mum thoroughly enjoyed her three years studying Geography at Cambridge in the decade after the war as better opportunities opened up for women. She was always interested in geology, geographical features of the landscape, plants and the outdoor life. In her final year, she specialized in Geomorphology. Jean Grove was her Director of Studies and supervised her Regional Essay on Ludlow. Dad and the family feel that it is very fitting that he has been able to set up this endowment in Girton’s 150th year. Richard and I are very proud of our parents’ achievement considering they both came from such humble, working class backgrounds.’ – David Tyler, son

Geography at Girton has been consistent and distinctive in its strength, vibrancy and endurance. Today, as in the past, there is a large and thriving community of undergraduates, graduates, and Fellows working together to create a lively and supportive learning environment. Both socially and academically, Girton Geographers have a tremendous sense of identity and belonging, both to the College and to the discipline.

Fellows past and present include experts in human, physical and environmental geography. The late Dr Jean Grove changed the way physical scientists understand climate change, for example, while Life Fellow Dr Roland Randall has challenged conventional wisdoms around British and Mediterranean coastal ecosystems, Dr Harriet Allen is, amongst other things, an expert on the reintroduction of the Iberian lynx into Spain, while Dr Mia Gray, is a sought-after commentator on employment and austerity. Early Career Fellows in Geography include Dr Amy Donovan, who researches the interface between the human and physical geographies of risk on volcanoes and Dr Anna Barford, whose projects on youth employment and regimes of austerity explore the intersection of economy, society and policy. Girton is, finally, the only Cambridge College to have a geographer as the Head of House. Professor Susan J. Smith’s work is centrally concerned with geographies of inequality especially as mediated by the housing system.

Geography has always been an important and prominent subject here at Girton. This exceptional gift will be game-changing in Girton’s ability to attract and support Geography students and underwrite career development in Geographical research and teaching.

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