#24 Sushila and Mathew Abraham (WGH 1989-91)

Sushila Abraham, the 186th Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames, lived with her family at Byron Court, which was part of William Goodenough House. During her time in College Sushila was taking her Master of Laws while her husband Dr Mathew Abraham was doing his PhD in law at SOAS and their son was in the WGH nursery.

Both Sushila and Mathew have lived and worked in Kingston since the early 1990s. Sushila as a solicitor and Mathew as a barrister. Sushila is a council member in the Law Society of England and Wales representing Surrey solicitors. She was a past president of Surrey Law Society and a former Chairperson of Solicitors Sole Practitioners Group (SPG). That background provided an ideal grounding for Sushila’s parallel career serving as a local councillor in the Berrylands ward from 2013 onwards and as Deputy Mayor in 2019 and then as Mayor from May 2021.

 “It was a great honour to be elected as mayor by my fellow councillors. As a solicitor my work involves meeting and talking to local people, so it has given me a good understanding of key issues in the local community.

“The theme for my mayoral year focuses on mental health and wellbeing, and on improving local green spaces – both very essential during this difficult period we have been through. I am supporting a range of recycling and environmental initiatives and on improving local green spaces. Both my husband and I have a keen interest in environmental law issues from our student days at Goodenough and now.”

Sushila’s dissertation was on the Union Carbide gas leak disaster in Bhopal, India

Sushila’s LLM dissertation was on the environmental disaster case of Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, India. While at Goodenough, she and Mathew wrote and published an article based on her dissertation in the International and Comparative Law Quarterly (Vol 40, 1991). Mathew also published a book based on his PhD thesis, Environmental Jurisprudence in India (Kluwer Law International 1999). A copy of this book was gifted to the Goodenough College library.

“We loved living at Goodenough with families from around the world. I remember spending time in meetings with the Parents Committee and together we helped in starting and developing the nursery at Willy G and set up a children’s playground in the garden.”

Sushila remembers organising a South Asian Night event in the College. It was quite a challenging task, as it was the first time such an event was organised in the college. It was a great success and still remembered by all the residents who lived in the square then.

“There were less than a dozen or so south Asian residents in both London House and WGH then. Mrs Sandra Lello who was warden at Willy G encouraged us to organise an event to display the rich cultural diversity of the sub-continent. We joined together and did the shopping in Southall, took over the kitchens of the few residents living in the flats and fed over a hundred LH and Willy G residents and their friends with exotic south Asian dishes along with a variety entertainment of music and dances.

“One of the fondest memories both my husband and I cherish about the College was the opportunity to meet the Queen. We were able to talk to her at length and she made us feel proud with her admiration when she learnt from us that our ancestors were St Thomas Christians of Kerala in India.

The community spirit of all those from different parts of the world living together in the College comes out vividly

“Other great memories I cherish were the annual law faculty dinners where we got the opportunity to meet and talk to law lords and eminent members of the legal profession. The barbeques in the garden with residents of the square and the fireworks night were also some memorable times I cannot forget. The community spirit of all those from different parts of the world living together in the College comes out vividly during those memorable events.

“Ms Val Martin who was deputy warden then at Willy G used to inspire us with her knowledge about the square and the surrounding areas. So also, the then director Mr David Emms who lived in the flat below us in Byron Court was always very kind and helpful, many a times giving me a hand to get the buggy with our little boy up the steps.”

Both Sushila and Mathew have continued to keep in touch with the College. Mathew was a committee member of the initial London Alumni Group during the 1990s and early 2000. They have attended many of the Alumni events and receptions they were invited to.

“The College made a very positive and lasting impact on our lives. We have encouraged our son and many younger members of our friends and family to reside here and to make use of the College’s fantastic opportunities while pursuing their post graduate studies in London.”