Image : Lancaster 50th Anniversary

Remember When

Here are some of the people and events that have made the University what it is today.

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Celebrating 50 Years with Operational Research

Steve Curtis (MSc Operational Research, 2003)has always sought excuses to come back to Lancaster to visit and the 50th Celebrations held by the OR department seemed the perfect one with a rare opportunity to catch up with old lecturers and find out how it all began.

'Visits always evoke mixed feelings. I have many happy memories of my time, all of which come flooding back as I arrive at campus. The overriding feeling I have on returning to campus, however, is amazement at the rate of change seen around campus. There’s evidence of investment in the University everywhere you look, which is great news for current and future students, although it leaves us almuni reflecting on what might have been. A new £20m sports centre greeted me this time, and a walk around campus uncovered yet more development in Colleges and Departments making the Spine unrecognisable in places. This was all before entering the new phase of the Management School for the first time. Some of the familiar corridors are still there, but they’re now supplemented by large breakout areas and state of the art lecture theatres. Considering I’ve only been away for 10 years, it’s all pretty impressive.

The celebration itself did not disappoint. The day was spent listening to presentations from lecturers, historians, and a recording from Pat Rivett himself, with plenty of time interspersed to catch up with students and some of the ‘old’ lecturers: Graham Rand, Dave Worthington and Richard Eglese.

The presentations shed some light on a number of unanswered questions, such as “where did Skein begin?” Apparently, thanks to a cheap batch of ties and a loose connection between a flock of geese and a knotted length of yarn.

Hearing from past students from the 60s through to the noughties was somewhat surreal. Regardless of the difference in time, the experiences sounded very familiar. Granted technology had changed somewhat, but the courses, the challenges and the all-nighters remained the same. It was also satisfying to hear that the gruelling four-hour-long Fido exams had been a staple for decades before we arrived. The courses that students from the 60s and 70s talked of were the same, although the names associated with them varied somewhat. Alan Mercer was apparently renowned for technical theory in the 60s, but was teaching Marketing by the time I arrived. The most amazing statistic of all? In a University that changes as much as it does, it’s a significant feat that Pizzetta Republic has survived in the same spot since the 80s!

A particular highlight of mine was hearing a recording from Pat Rivett about how he came to take the post at Lancaster. Everything all seemed so casual and coincidental but, without that series of events, Operational Research may not ever have come to Lancaster and the lives of all the people in the room would have been completely different.

The last act of the visit was to speak one last time with Graham Rand, to thank him for the day, and to find out how I could get my hands on one of the Skein ties. Sadly they’re not available anymore but, obviously seeing my disappointment, Graham handed me his spare one. A great memento of the day, and of my time at Lancaster, and one I’ll be wearing with pride at the next celebration, whenever it may be.'