#17 Tessa Boland (WGH 95-96)

I spent a wonderful year, 1995-1996, at Goodenough College, at that time known as the London Goodenough Trust. I lived at William Goodenough House affectionately called ‘Willy G’.

I was a Caribbean Bursary recipient from the island of Saint Lucia and felt very privileged to obtain the bursary and live in such a unique and stimulating environment. I met people from many different countries pursuing diverse and interesting courses and felt a common bond with them all, in one way or another.  Goodenough College taught me something about humanity and how it transcends cultures.

I enjoyed mulled wine for the first time and spent hours over the Christmas holidays fitting pieces of a most complicated puzzle, in the lobby of Willy G. I joined others for a sports day at Sandhurst and was on the medal winning team! I listened to Handel’s Messiah at the Albert Hall and sang along with Eric Clapton to “Tears in Heaven”, on both occasions in the comfort of the Goodenough College box seats, a rare treasure. I visited Union Bank Switzerland (USB) to understand the working of a city bank and enjoyed lunch in their corporate dining room on the Business students’ field trip.

The intellectual exchanges held at Goodenough College were stimulating; the likes of which I will probably never have again and of course, the friends made… many were forever.

The country evenings were the best – they were a treat to all your senses. You could almost taste, feel and touch the cultures but mostly you had to dance, dance like the locals of the country on that night.  Greek Night, African Night and our very own Caribbean Night, where we tried our best to submerge the other residents in our rich tropical culture…

However fantastic those experiences were, my most unexpected and wonderful evening at the College was the night of the Law and Business Dinner, 1996. I came along with my friends – some of whom were Business students like me and others, who were students of the Bar.  On arrival we separated to find our respective seats which were marked with name tags. Mine seemed far removed from theirs, I took my seat looking back as they chatted in close proximity to each other. The seats on both my left and right were empty. Strange, I thought, weren’t they coming… Slowly the tables began to fill in, as other residents and invited guests arrived and we approached the appointed start of the event.  I wondered again if my dinner seat mates would arrive or if I should move one seat across, so that I would seated next to someone on one side, at least, during dinner.

Before that thought was completed suddenly someone swiftly picked up my jacket and handbag and pulled me to my feet, surprising me. “Come, come! Come with me”. “Where?” was my quick response. “Come, you were sitting on your own, weren’t you?” “Well I was but, I will be fine, I am sure someone will arrive shortly”. This did not deter my usher, who I had now made out to be the Secretary to Major General Toyne Sewell, the then Director of the College. She ushered me to the head table saying “I have a much better seat for you here.” And with that she pulled a chair and sat me down next to Mr David Rowland, the then Chairman of Lloyds’ of London and the guest speaker for the evening. My night had certainly changed and the excitement of my new seating arrangement was overwhelming.

He was an engaging dinner partner and could speak on many subjects; however he was curious to know where I was from and what I did before coming to study in London. We discovered we were both students of the sciences who had switched to business pursuits.  We spoke on the trials of selling Windward Islands’ bananas in the EU market among quality competition from Latin America, of which I was the aspiring expert. Of course we also spoke of the problems and worries, reported that week in the press, of the London insurance market which was facing unprecedented claims and a shaky structure.  Even with this discussion on-going, he kept his mind clear for his cue to begin his presentation as guest speaker.  He delivered an outstanding speech that night in a very simple way and it seemed to me that was the essence of the man. We continued speaking after he was finished and even discussed my thoughts on what he had spoken about.

I felt very lucky to have been chosen to sit with the guest speaker that night and was privileged to have met Sir David Rowland, now deceased, who was later knighted for his contribution to safeguarding the Lloyd’s insurance market and its re-structuring.

I wondered long after that night what had happened to the probably carefully chosen student whose seat I got… Whether they came at all or if coming late, they sat watching me in their place regretting their tardiness… Thank you for a wonderful and unexpected evening at Goodenough College!

Tessa is presently living and working in Saint Lucia in Food Supply Chain Management and manufacturing, having studied MSc International Marketing in London. She lives with her 14-year-old son and her 94-year-old mother.