Interview with former Development Director Bronwyn Travers
For the past 15 years, Bronwyn Travers has been the heartbeat of Development at St Hilda’s. Now entering retirement, Bronwyn is leaving the College, and her life in Oxford, behind. In this interview, she reflects on her time at St Hilda’s and the projects she has overseen.
Bronwyn joined St Hilda’s in 2007, following a successful spell as Head of Development at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Her initial priority would be to establish a big capital campaign to improve the fabric of the College site; a building project that would have a clear beginning, middle, and end. ‘I thought I would be here for a few years to oversee the capital campaign, and that would be it’, Bronwyn says with a laugh. However, the College decided to explore other options for its site and then, with the 2008 financial crisis looming, the building project was put on pause. So Bronwyn’s attention turned, instead, to fundraising to secure the funding for two tutorial posts – in Law and English. Both of these campaigns were hugely successful and ensured that St Hilda's secured matched funding from the University, resulting in the endowment of two posts in perpetuity.
In the lead up to the St Hilda’s 125th anniversary in 2018, the College was ready with its plans for the site – so the capital campaign returned to the fore and plans were put in place for the transformative Anniversary Building and Pavilion. Bronwyn and her team were closely involved in the project and tasked with raising funds to support the building work. It is fitting that her retirement dinner took place in the Pavilion, something she describes as ‘coming full circle’. ‘It was very moving to be standing in the beautiful auditorium, named for Val McDermid, in one of the buildings we fundraised for, together with so many of the people who contributed to the success of the whole project’, she reflects.
Bronwyn joined St Hilda’s at a transformative time, just as the College had made the decision to admit men as students for the first time in its 115-year history. ‘It was extraordinary to see men coming in to the College to take up their places - as students - for the first time’, Bronwyn recalls. ‘The transition was handled by the then-Principal Shelia Forbes in an incredibly thoughtful and well-organised way.’ The admittance of men dominated conversation during the 2008 telethon, with alumnae keen to hear how the transition was going. It was the first telethon to take place in over five years and its success kick-started a programme of regular giving that would go on to underpin fundraising at St Hilda’s.
Along with the 125 Anniversary Campaign, the Kojo Minta Memorial Fund is closest to her heart. An energetic and dedicated member of the MCR, Kojo tragically died in 2011, shortly after completing his MPhil in History at St Hilda’s. Bronwyn and the Development team worked closely with Kojo’s family and friends to establish a memorial fund in his honour. Thanks to the generosity of so many, the Kojo Minta Memorial Fund reached the level needed for endowment last year, and now supports a graduate scholarship in the humanities, as well as funding travel and research grants for current members of the MCR. An annual Thanksgiving Dinner provides an opportunity to celebrate Kojo’s life, and continues to raise money for the fund in his name.
As well as fundraising, Bronwyn did much to oversee the development of the alumnae relations and events programme to ensure that Senior Members were invited back to College on a regular basis. With the help of the Association of Senior Members (ASM) Committee and the American Friends of St Hilda’s, a wider range of events were organised in London, Oxford, and overseas, as Bronwyn, and the College, looked to broaden the number and format of the events on offer. When asked to reflect on her favourite alumnae event, Bronwyn tells me that there are ‘too many to mention’. However, she recalls the 125 celebrations as a year of highlights.
With retirement brings new adventures, and Bronwyn will be dividing her time between the U.K. and to Taiwan to spend more time with her family there. She is dusting off her rusty Mandarin and attempting to keep up with her 17-month-old granddaughter! However, she remains involved as a volunteer to support the St Hilda’s Crime Fiction Weekend Programme Committee this year for its 30th anniversary.
Bronwyn’s legacy at St Hilda’s is everywhere. It’s in the new buildings, the Steinway piano in the concert hall of the JdP, and the teaching posts that have been preserved thanks to her hard work. The plaques and benches around College are testament to the wonderful relationships she has built with our alumnae over the years and the support she has inspired. Bronwyn also leaves behind a talented Development team, an established programme of events, and a College culture of giving. Signing off, Bronwyn says: ‘It’s time for someone to come in with a fresh vision and fresh energy. I wish my successor and all the team, the very best for the future.’