Skip to main content

Staff Memories - Margaret Wallis

My first memory when we arrived at Warwick in 1977 was the welcome extended to us by Jack and Doris Butterworth. We were involved in numerous inter-faculty social occasions and Doris involved me in the Women’s Group (other connotations eventually causing the name to be changed to Newcomers’ Group). There were Christmas parties for staff children – Jack or one of the professors was Santa. I recall feeling sick after blowing up numerous balloons!

Coincidentally, we happened to move to a house next door to Phil Mead, Treasurer of the University, and so we learned quite a lot from another perspective. Phil was fiercely proud of Warwick and his contribution was immense – not least through his introduction of ‘The Anonymous Benefactor’ and hence Benefactor’s Hall, The Arts Centre and the running track etc.

Ken and I are longstanding subscribers to the International Concert Series. In the 80s the pleasure of these concerts was enhanced by dinner in the Rootes Grill Room beforehand. Richard, Pat, and Shirley managed to feed a room full of concert-goers in record time. At around 7.15 it became a joke that Ken would order one of their fantastic knickerbocker glories. We were never late for a concert. ‘There’s still time for a knickerbocker glory’ became a family catchphrase for any last minute activity!

Jack Butterworth was always immensely proud of ‘his’ staff. I remember before one concert he came bounding up to Ken exclaiming “£x over £x years - fantastic!” after it had been announced that morning that the Economic and Social Research Council had awarded him a big grant. Someone who sat near us in the Hall, then as now, commented “I think he’s pleased at something you’ve done!”

An outstanding memory for me is of the Graduation Ceremonies at Coventry Cathedral. I was thrilled when I realised that academic-related as well as academic staff were encouraged to join the formal procession as I felt it was important that we offered our support to students and their families at this important rite de passage. Unless it was pouring with rain, the procession wended its way down through the old Cathedral and down the steps to the New Cathedral – always a hazardous stage in the proceedings for the less agile members of the procession.

It was a real joy to see and clap so many students with whom one had had direct contact and whose stories one knew. It was also awe-inspiring to sit looking into the body of the Cathedral and seeing light filtering through the wonderful Piper stained glass windows and the Hutton West Screen. The Honorary graduands always looked tiny and humble standing alone at the head of the nave as the orator said nice things about them. Some of these speeches were memorable too, notably one by Susan Bassnett making links between the role of ‘the fool’ in Shakespeare’s plays and the role of comedy in today’s society – aimed at an obviously very thrilled Lenny Henry.

As the University grew and more and more graduation ceremonies were needed, the ritual was transferred to the Butterworth Hall on the main campus. Nice though it was to have ceremonies on campus, some of the magic and grandeur of the event was irrevocably lost.

I was appointed as Director of the Careers Advisory Service in 1989 and one of the commitments that was transferred from my predecessor’s diary was a big Navy Dinner in the Panorama Suite in the Easter vacation. The Band of the Royal Marines played in a corner. Everyone was in uniform except me of course. The Chief Wren and I were the only women guests present. I was enormously proud of the University when a wonderful main course arrived comprising piping hot, perfectly cooked steak tornados and everyone was extremely complimentary about Hospitality Services. My professional involvement with employers meant that at many subsequent conferences and events, including hosting lunches with employers who were visiting the campus to interview Warwick students, I heard numerous compliments about the high quality of the University’s services as well as its students. It was always good to bask in some of this reflected glory!

Col. John Little was the member of Council who chaired the Careers Advisory Board. I recall phoning him to ask if he would like to be involved with a forthcoming staff appointment. He responded in his usual kindly bluff way “We’ve appointed a good gaffer and as far as I’m concerned I’m happy to let you get on with it”. I really appreciated this and other votes of confidence.

Although the vast majority of those people I interviewed in the Careers Advisory Service were Warwick students or graduates, occasionally others would find their way in. In the friendliest way possible I always tried to find out what route had brought them to our door. The funniest answer was “I was in a Jacuzzi with some friends who were discussing their futures. One of them said ‘this woman Margaret Wallis sorted me out’ so I thought I’d come and see if you could do the same for me”!

Finally, I shall never forget Mike Shattock’s unbounding enthusiasm and supportiveness to me and to so many other members of staff. He never seemed interested in hierarchies – just good ideas and competence – and this gave many people a huge boost personally and in their careers at Warwick and elsewhere.

Margaret Wallis
Careers Advisory Service, 1978-99