Donna’s Story

Donna Seruya-Sackman, Gibraltar (WGH 1979-82)

LLM Law, University of London

donna-storyIt's been 32 years since Donna Seruya-Sackman was in room 5405 on the third floor of Willie G. As she walks in to greet Pilar Soto-Astorga (Bio-engineering), she notes the different layout of the current Member's single en-suite: 'There was no en-suite when I was here, just a basin in a cupboard, and the front door was in the middle of the room where the bathroom is now.'

Indeed, the basic arrangement of the room has been updated as part of the major refurbishment programme in 2011/12 to meet modern standards, yet 'the room still feels the same' says Donna. 'I loved the social life here, going to the theatre and museums and being able to walk to so many places in London. Goodenough really is London's best kept secret. I had such a stimulating time here and made so many lifelong friendships."

It's easy to see from Pilar's heavily adorned wall and cluttered desk that this hasn't changed much; among her chunky books on bioengineering are postcards and photos of memories made along the way since becoming a College resident. 'This is not simply where I have been sleeping whilst studying for my PhD. Living at the College for the past two years has given me the privilege of meeting bright and diverse Members from all over the world. I have made memories here which I will carry with me forever.'

Donna and Pilar, chatting in their native Spanish, swap stories about their experiences at Goodenough. They stand by the window overlooking the tennis court on Mecklenburgh Square, both noting the stunning view they shared from this room. Donna adds "I was a very keen tennis player then!" It's no coincidence though, that their experiences of life at here are so similar.

Donna tells Pilar that two of her daughters were also Members. 'I made sure that Sarah and Paloma chose to stay in Willie G. Although London House is a great building and I loved getting to know different people over breakfasts and dinners in the Great Hall, I wanted my daughters to experience a real community life - the girls had a wonderful time. 

Donna added that her daughters experiences were probably even more socially and culturally enriching because Members in her day weren't as organised. 'There are so many interesting societies, faculty dinners and even a Jewish Society that encourages such a variety of interfaith communal events'. Pilar replied, 'I am part of the Music and Hiking Societies, to name a few, the work and dedication that go into events here are truly what make Goodenough such a remarkable place'.

Donna shows Pilar a photograph of herself in the room back in the 1970s, and adds how she was the first female resident from Gibraltar 'Things were different in those days I arrived in London with an envelope of cash to last me the term and no mobile phone! I had no-where to stay, so I went into Willie G, on recommendation, and I said to the Warden "I know the College has a quota for each country, I can make up the quota for Gibraltar". That was pretty much it!'.

'Returning to my old room is quite emotional' says Donna 'I have so many happy memories'.

Both agree that their experiences in Willie G and Goodenough are remarkable and life changing. Pilar says 'living in my current room has given me the space I needed for study, to relax with a great view to the garden and a periodic visit of pigeons and… a squirrel! My time in the College has been an excellent experience, and I will carry its memories, vision, and friends for the rest of my life'.

Donna Seruya-Sackman is delighted to participate in the Room Naming Programme.

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