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Alumna Dr Eva Simmons provides transformative support and describes her experience of Lucy

Dr Eva Simmons, Lucy’s first ever undergraduate offer holder, matriculated in October 1972 to study English. Eva made a gift to Lucy to provide transformative support for a student who would have otherwise faced severe barriers to studying at Cambridge.

Eva made the generous gift with the intention of helping a student from an area of instability or zone of conflict, or who is or has been at risk of discrimination, persecution, suffering, violence or other abuse of their human rights.

“I am so grateful for the time I enjoyed at Lucy Cavendish, especially considering that my tuition was free. Lucy was a real lifeline for me – indeed my memories of the wonderfully enriching teaching, and the diligence and care taken by the college will stay with me always.  I am pleased to be able to support Lucy as it begins its next chapter, by helping to ensure that someone who has overcome significant obstacles in their personal life can benefit from the same opportunity as I had, to study at Cambridge.

I myself am from a refugee family, and am so lucky that my parents managed to escape to Britain and helped me to make a good life in this country.   So I have a special sympathy for young people in similar situations”

Eva was the first in her cohort (and the College’s history) to receive an undergraduate offer of a place to study at Lucy Cavendish.

“Here's how it happened: I had never heard of Lucy Cavendish, and had no plans to go to a woman's college. I had been to a girls' (grammar) school years before, and had unpleasant memories of what felt to me like a hothouse atmosphere cut off from the masculine world. But as a mature student, and female too, I had few choices in 1972.

Somebody asked me if I knew about - and had considered applying to - Lucy Cavendish: previously a graduates-only college, but now about to begin admitting undergraduates. I didn't, and hadn't, so - overcoming my misgivings - I did! Lucy Cavendish offered me a place immediately, on the strength of my University Entrance exam results - even without knowing my ‘A’ Level grades - and I accepted.

I later discovered none of the other candidates had taken the Entrance Exam, so they all had to wait for their ‘A’ Level grades before knowing if they had a place.  Thus I was the first Lucy Cavendish undergraduate! Saying ‘yes’ to Lucy Cavendish was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

From the beginning we were treated as the adults we were, with guidelines, and of course instruction, but no compulsion. I discovered for the first time in my life what it meant to truly love learning (instead of considering it a chore): I later went on to do a Ph.D and, after a career in journalism, am again doing literary and historic research. I had chosen to read English Literature, and my Director of Studies, Dr. Mindele Treip (now sadly deceased), was inspiring.

Not only that, but the students were so diverse, even then, and I made friends from around the world with many of whom I am still in contact, and consider them friends for a lifetime.  We are bound together by our common experiences at Lucy, as well as still enjoying shared views and interests. And four years ago a small group of us reunited in Cambridge and were given the warm welcome, at Lucy’s Formal Hall Dinner, for which the college is famous.

…I believe all of us benefited hugely from our time at Lucy Cavendish, have fabulous memories, and marvel at how the college has grown - in size, reputation, and prestige!”