Worcester is riding high academically. Our sporting teams continue to triumph. Drama, music and college societies are thriving. Our gardens and grounds are the envy of all Oxford. We have Fellows who are committed teachers and distinguished researchers. Our staff are hardworking and loyal. And we are famously friendly. It is no wonder that former students returning for graduation ceremonies and Old Members coming to Gaudies and other events have spoken to me of Worcester with a warmth far beyond that which I have witnessed in any other institution. That old Latin phrase Alma Mater has real meaning here.
But the Oxford colleges are only able to offer our very special education because of the centuries-long tradition of endowment on the part of philanthropic donors. We have long been dependent on the goodwill of our Old Members, on the generosity of those of you who are able to give something back in order to enable future generations to share the opportunities from which you benefited yourselves.
Ours has never been a wealthy college. We began in the Middle Ages as Gloucester College and very nearly disappeared after the dissolution of the monasteries. We were re-founded as Worcester in 1714, but there was only enough money to build half a quad—hence the survival of our mediaeval cottages—and none left to establish a proper endowment.
The astonishing fact is that for all the achievements of Worcester today, we are—measuring by size of endowment less liabilities—the poorest of all Oxford’s colleges. We have done so much with so little: imagine how much more we will be able to do if we are properly endowed! We are now developing major plans for not just a sustainable but an even more exceptional fourth century for Worcester College—plans that will depend on help of all kinds from our loyal Old Members. What matters is not how much any one individual gives, but how many of us are willing to signal our commitment to our College by participating in however small a way.
Sir Jonathan Bate FBA FRSL