On 21 November Exeter Branch members gathered to hear an interesting and informative talk given by Dr Shaun Curtis, Director of Global Advancement at the University of Exeter, who also leads the university’s fundraising campaign, ‘Making the Exceptional Happen’. Shaun is, like many of us, an Exeter graduate.
First, Shaun reminded us of our University’s early beginnings in the city centre where the school of Art was housed in the Royal Albert Memorial building – now the Museum – in 1855. One hundred years later, the University of Exeter received its Charter from HM the Queen on the Streatham estate overlooking the city: a century of transformation that was supported by a number of major benefactors and philanthropists along the way. Today, Exeter is among the top 100 global universities with a presence at several locations in the UK and overseas. Student numbers have grown substantially and the university has strong links with education establishments across the globe. Exeter is now a world leader on research into dementia and diabetes, reflecting the 21st century growth in the sciences.
With some 24,000 students (undergraduates as well as postgraduates) on sites in Devon and Cornwall, the University exerts a significant impact on the economy of the south west, in particular in Exeter where some 5,000 jobs are directly related to the university and a further 850 in Cornwall at Penryn.
Shaun ended this part of his talk by outlining the latest development on the Streatham campus, Project North Park, a centre for climate science research and teaching, which is due to open in 2024.
Moving on to the second aspect of his job, Shaun spoke about the campaign he has led called ‘Making the Exceptional Happen’, the largest and what has proved to be one of the most successful fundraising ventures the University has run, as it has reached 95% of its target of £60 million well before it is due to finish. As part of this campaign he highlighted a 21st century philanthropist’s contribution to the university with the building of the new Mireille Gillings Neuroimaging Centre at the RD&E Hospital site, due to open in April 2020. Housing MRI and PET scanners, this centre will undertake dementia research and was funded by an alumna’s gift of £10 million. Shaun hastened to add that most alumni gave much smaller sums, around £50, and also pointed out that many alumni volunteer to mentor students and offer careers advice.
Exeter has a growing population of alumni around the world and Shaun explained that the University will look to them for support with Exeter’s future development.
There followed a lively question and answer session after which Dr Clive Lee, a pioneer in research design who helped to develop the famous Exeter Hip at the university, gave the vote of thanks.