Dr Tony Doyle
I was excited to come to Oxford at the age of 17 to take the schol. exams, imagining all the “great people” who had trodden the same path. I was then exhilarated when St Edmund Hall accepted me: a nobody, from nowhere.
During the first week in my room in Hall, I was reading in Cherwell about Grey Northern Chemists and thought “Blow me! I am reading chemistry and I come from Northamptonshire” (hardly northern, I know). So, I thought that I would get a Blue. What better than in the Oxford boat? So, I went down to the towpath to the Teddy Hall boat tied to the bank, and began catching crabs with the oar with the holes drilled in it that I, and the six-foot-four blokes in front of and behind me, who had been rowing since they were 8 years old, were armed with. I made just the one visit! Plan B was the OU Judo Club and a year of intense training led to my being picked to join the team and to 3 Half-Blues in the next three years. That would have been three full Blues in later years, but at least it was a colour wash over the grey.
As luck would have it Chemistry was a four-year course, which had two benefits: a year of nothing but scientific research, which I love, and another year at the Hall where the phenomenal atmosphere washed over and into me and gave me a life-long love of the place. I was lucky enough to be spellbound, along with my fellow students, by the renowned oratory of the Principal, The Rev. J. N. D. Kelly and the inspirational character of The Rev. Grahan Midgley, the Dean. The latter carpeted me because he found out that I was nipping down to London on my motorbike at weekends during term-time to visit Carole, who I had recently met, and with whom I have now been married for 54 years.
The wonder of Oxford, and the Hall within it, is in the way that it pitches each of us into independent and original thinking; another lifelong influence. This independence has been immensely helpful during the whole of my life; of course particularly in my scientific career, leading to inventions and patents in my one and only job as a research scientist and, subsequently, for my own manufacturing company which I started with a huge investment of £45 for some electronic components. Original thoughts allowed us to carve out a small niche in which to survive in this competitive world and led us to winning The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation, twice. It would be lovely to win it for a third time but I am not sure whether there is anything left up top!
My love of research, and the independent thinking it demands, led me to have a “mid-life crisis”, and to come back to St Edmund Hall at the age of 50, and this time to the Department of Materials, to take my D.Phil. Amazingly, I managed to stay on for 24 years; after the Doctorate as an Academic Visitor. Unfortunately this was very much part-time because I still have a manufacturing company to experiment for and to manage. All this has given me wonderful contact with Oxford and the Hall. I loved the stimulating chats during my frequent visits to the MCR as a graduate student; all helping with my amateur pursuits of philosophy and economics.
St Edmund Hall has had such a strong effect on me, the first of a working class family to go to university, and with few financial difficulties, too, thanks to a State Scholarship that I had won. Hence, I had the idea of easing the financial burdens of other students from impecunious backgrounds during some of their time at the Hall. Thinking biasedly that, in the UK’s parlous economic state, where, having had a current account deficit for many years, we have not earned our way in the world we need more scientists, engineers and mathematicians, the Science Bursaries were created. Luckily, as the manufacturing company survives, these are continuing to evolve. I hoped that these would be seed-corn and that students benefiting from the bursaries would, in turn, help St Edmund Hall to prosper in future years, when they were able to do so. Nice letters from some of the recipients indicate that this may well be so. What a privileged life I have.