The 40th Anniversary was a remarkable event - full of inspiration, laughter and friendship. 147 Rhodes women attended this weekend, including four members of the very first class of 1977. There were all decades of Scholars represented since then, and 16 Rhodes election countries.
The theme for the anniversary was ‘I stand up for…’ and Scholars have been sending in the many causes and projects they are passionate about from around the world. Many also took part from afar with our live streaming and social media – using #40YearsRhodesWomen.
The CEO and Warden, Charles Conn, introduced the celebrations with a special Anniversary film. Followed by topical panels which included discussion on gender, equality, business, politics, law, science and technology. In particular, the Trailblazers panel saw women from the classes of 1977 and 78 return to speak to Rhodes women on the meaning of the Scholarship and how it has evolved, and their experience of Oxford in the 1970s.
During the celebratory dinner, three new portraits were unveiled in Milner Hall – Menaka Guruswamy (India & University 1998), lawyer in the Supreme Court of India and B.R Ambedkar Research Scholar at Columbia Law School, Susan Rice (Maryland & DC & New College 1986), former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama (2013-17), Brookings Institution Senior Fellow and U.S Ambassador to the United Nations, and Sylvia Mathews Burwell (West Virginia & Worcester 1987), 15th president of American University and the 22nd United States Secretary of Health and Human Services. They join in the hall Lucy Banda-Sichone (Zambia & Somerville 1978), human rights activist and educator. The portraits are also part of a wider University of Oxford initiative to increase representation of women and other ethnicities through changing the portraiture at the University.
Another highlight was the Oxford Meeting Minds where Nancy-Ann DeParle (Tennessee & Balliol 1979), Menaka Guruswamy (India & University 1998), Sylvia Matthews Burwell (West Virginia & Worcester 1987) and Jennifer Robinson (Australia-at-Large & Balliol 2006) offered interesting insights into the the impact of 40 Years of Rhodes Women Scholars upon the world. This panel was moderated by the Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government, Professor Ngaire Woods (New Zealand & Balliol 1987).
The event was greatly enjoyed by attendees and staff: there were many comments about the sense of community, common aims, shared experiences and the need to build a Rhodes Women network for the future.