With Christmas Greetings
and all Good Wishes
for the New Year
Rhodes House, Oxford
PRIVATE ♦ NOT FOR PUBLICATION
Oxford OX1 3RG
Dear fellow Rhodes Scholar
I am starting to write to you from an aeroplane somewhere over Indonesia as I fly back to England after a hurried trip home to Australia to bury one of my closest friends – Sir Zelman Cowen (Victoria & New College 1941) (7 October 1919 – 8 December 2011). Sir Zelman, 40 years my senior, had a remarkable capacity for friendship and mentorship to people of all generations – a model for the kinds of inter-generational linkages that often arise in the Rhodes community. I hope that with the current growth of Rhodes alumni activity, including increasing chances for current Scholars to meet visiting Rhodes alumni at Rhodes House, there may be more opportunities for such inter-generational links to arise spontaneously and serendipitously. Our annual survey of current Scholars shows that this is something they would warmly welcome.
Zelman Cowen was one of the generation of Rhodes Scholars who, elected before or early in World War II, came up to Oxford at war’s end after military service. In 1947, he was appointed a Fellow and Tutor in Law at Oriel even before he topped the Bachelor of Civil Law, and taught at Oriel until going back to Australia as a 31-year-old Dean of the University of Melbourne Law School in 1951. Building the modern law school while emerging as a prominent public figure in Australia, active in many public debates in the 1950s and 1960s, he then became Vice-Chancellor of the University of New England (1967-70) and after this Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland, my alma mater.
In 1977 he was chosen to become Governor-General of Australia, setting out to bring what Nehru had called ‘a touch of healing’ after the political convulsions in Australia arising from the nation’s 1975 constitutional crisis. Tireless in his community outreach, speech-making, and other aspects of this healing role, Sir Zelman then came back to Oxford as Provost of Oriel College (1982-90) – the first Rhodes Scholar to be Provost of Cecil Rhodes’s own college. It was in these years that a great friendship developed between us. After I returned to Australia in 1996, I spent a good deal of time working with Sir Zelman on his memoirs, which were published in 2006 as A Public Life, and which reflect a lifetime of engagement with public causes, with a strong emphasis on civil liberties, international affairs, and the arts.
Sir Zelman had many times asked me to speak at his funeral, and I had always responded that I would do so as long as he delayed the necessity as long as possible. His efforts came to an end this month, and I was soon on a plane to Australia. If you are interested, you can read the tributes to Sir Zelman from his State Funeral in Melbourne on the Rhodes House website here.
Sir Zelman was deeply grateful that a Rhodes Scholarship made his boyhood dream of coming to Oxford a reality, and so opened up a lifetime of extraordinary opportunities. Each of us, I know, shares this spirit of gratitude for the opportunities we have been given. Throughout his career, Sir Zelman was a leader with a strong sense of service – ‘I only want to be useful’, he said to me many times. There is no doubt that, in the words of Cecil Rhodes's will, he 'esteem[ed] the performance of public duties as his highest aim'. His memoirs and other writings also reflect his awareness that central to Cecil Rhodes’s vision was his hope to contribute to ‘permanently [securing] the peace of the world’ through Scholarships promoting understanding between ‘the three great powers’ of his time – the British Empire (now the Commonwealth), the United States, and Germany. My own reading this year has brought home to me how powerful and persistent in Cecil Rhodes’s thinking was this desire that his legacy promote peace: in his first will in 1877 he expressed the hope to help ‘render wars impossible’, and 24 years later, in his last relevant codicil in 1901, he wrote of helping ‘render war impossible’.
This peace purpose of the Scholarships – to be achieved through ‘educational relations’ between nations which would be forged through exceptional young people who would become leaders in their various countries studying together in Oxford – was central to thinking about the Rhodes Scholarships in the first half of the 20th century. One impact of this was the creation of the Fulbright program of scholarships – initiated by Senator J. William Fulbright (Arkansas & Pembroke 1925), who on his election to the U.S. Senate in 1944 wrote to the Warden of Rhodes House, C. K. Allen, that he hoped ‘to make some contribution towards the peace and stability which Cecil Rhodes would like to see in this world’. Fulbright later said that the greatest influence on the creation of the Fulbright program of international mobility for students and others was his own experience as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford. Fulbright was also a strong advocate of the multilateral engagement of the United States, and as the longest-serving Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was strongly critical of the U.S. role in Vietnam. I first read his book The Arrogance of Power as a schoolboy in Australia some 40 years ago.
Princeton's Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as Director of Policy Planning in the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2011, delivered the inaugural J. William Fulbright Memorial Lecture on International Relations in Oxford in May. She said that nothing could better exemplify society-to-society relations than the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships. A report on her Fulbright lecture is here.
In his farewell speeches as Chair of the Rhodes Trustees this autumn, Lord Waldegrave placed strong emphasis on the international aspect of Rhodes’s vision, and I made a speech about it at the ‘Sailing Dinner’ for the Canadian Rhodes Scholars in Ottawa in September (on our website here). Personally, I think that, at a time when countries under economic and other stresses are turning inwards and seem less interested in international solutions to problems, it is all the more important that the Rhodes Scholarships do what they can to promote international understanding, cooperation, and peace, as the Founder clearly intended.
The desire of Cecil Rhodes that the Scholarships do this has important implications today – to encourage mixing between Scholars (and other students) of different nations, to promote connections throughout the global Rhodes community, and to refresh the countries from which Rhodes Scholars come to reflect the realities of the 21st century. In the extensive consultation in the Rhodes community over the last two years, strong support has been expressed for seeking additional resources to create Rhodes Scholarships in key countries not currently served, or not adequately served, by the Scholarships. It is very early days, but I am optimistic that in time it will be possible for this to happen whilst we also work to ensure the funding of our existing Scholarships. As always, your ideas are much appreciated.
The more I have learnt, the clearer it is to me that Cecil Rhodes expected his Trustees to adapt his plans to respond effectively, in promotion of his key purposes, to changing circumstances. His mind was always on the move and on the future – this is why, for example, he had several wills, and several codicils to his wills. His first Trustees, who knew him, knew that he wanted them to continue adapting. So, for example, very soon after his death his Trustees created several more Scholarships for Canada than he had done. The adaptation continued through three Acts of the British Parliament and other important changes to his will – for example, during World War I, abolishing the German Scholarships, which were twice re-created by his Trustees (in 1929-30 and 1969-70); in 1929, wholly remaking the geographic basis on which the Scholarships are awarded in the United States; opening up all but four of the Scholarships to women as well as to men in 1976; and so on. The creation of additional Scholarships for Commonwealth countries over many decades was a further expression of Rhodes’s desire that his Trustees adapt the practice to meet the times.
Today, we have the opportunity – and I would say the responsibility – to ask how to give the best effect in the 21st century to the ideals on which the Rhodes Scholarships are based. This is what we are seeking to do. One aspect of this is appropriately expanding the eligibility for the Scholarships - created by Cecil Rhodes in a very different world in 1899 - for former students from four male-only secondary schools in South Africa. Eligibility for one of these – St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown – has been opened for many years to former students of its sister school, Diocesan School for Girls. The Trustees have been in dialogue with the other three schools in recent times, and important expansion of eligibility to make these Scholarships open to women as well as men will be announced in coming months.
In his memoirs, Sir Zelman Cowen recalled that, in the years after World War II, Rhodes House was (as it had been in the 1930s) ‘a centre for social life’ for Scholars and, as was the case for many in the immediate post-war years, their wives and babies. Today, I think it is fair to say that it is for most current Scholars one of the centres of activity, community, and belonging for them in Oxford. Each term we have at least three ‘Meet and Mingle’ parties for all Scholars at Rhodes House, and we have many speaker events. Their talks – usually on issues to do with world problems, leadership, and career and life choices – are often followed by a buffet meal in my home at Rhodes House. Quite apart from this, all Scholars on stipend have been invited to a family-style dinner or lunch in my home this term. If you have looked at the ‘Glimpses of Rhodes’ video here, I think you will have seen that Rhodes House is alive with Scholar activity and energy. It all provides opportunities for Scholars of different countries and disciplines to engage with each other, which they are keen to do.
Some of the texts of talks given at Rhodes House during 2011 are on our website. These include a lecture by George Bizos (Nelson Mandela's lawyer) in memory of the anti-apartheid Rhodes Scholar lawyer Bram Fischer (Orange Free State & New College 1931); Nobel laureate F. W. de Klerk’s lecture on ‘Leadership in South Africa’s transition’; a speech by Elias Chipimo Jr (Zambia & Oriel 1990), who was then running for President of Zambia, on his vision for leadership for Africa’s future; Governor Fashola of Lagos State, Nigeria, on transforming a megacity; the speech by Her Excellency the Governor-General of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce AC, when she visited Rhodes House in April; Professor Nan Keohane on ‘The future of women’s leadership’; and Sir Shridath Ramphal’s lecture in memory of Caribbean cultural icon Rex Nettleford (Jamaica & Oriel 1957), who died last year. The texts of these talks are here.
One of the most impressive Scholar activities over the last year was the Global Scholars’ Symposium held at Rhodes House last May. Organised by a group of current Rhodes Scholars and others, it brought together around 150 overseas postgraduate students on scholarships in the UK, especially at Cambridge and Oxford. Under the theme ‘Think Global: connecting scholars to face the world's challenges', it included many speakers – in person and by video link – from the former Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, to the Sudanese-born African telecoms entrepreneur and philanthropist Mo Ibrahim. Another Scholar committee is now hard at work preparing the 2012 Global Scholars' Symposium. The emphasis among current Scholars on engaging with world issues to make a difference is reflected in other activities, from the Rhodes Scholars' Southern African Forum to the
newly-created Rhodes Social Impact Group.
These enriching activities based at Rhodes House supplement the deep involvement of Scholars in their colleges, departments, and University-wide activities, and wider communities. Current Scholars shine in college and University sport, and in many other activities, of which debating, drama, music, community service, MCR leadership positions, and Junior Deanships have been especially prominent in recent times. To focus simply on sport - in the last couple of years, Scholars have been awarded Blues or half Blues for athletics, basketball, cross country, hockey, ice hockey, karate, lacrosse, rowing, rugby union, soccer, squash, swimming, triathlon, volleyball, and yachting. Teams of Rhodes men and women have twice swum the English Channel for charity. We hope to have a Scholar compete in next year's London Olympics. Meanwhile, the academic results of Scholars remain excellent, with many Firsts, Distinctions, and prizes earned by Scholars across diverse disciplines.
As I mentioned earlier, the annual survey of Scholars in Oxford has again shown a desire on their part for more opportunities to connect with (and learn from) Scholars of earlier years and generations. We have again circulated the details of Scholars going down, invite current Scholars to the many alumni activities in Oxford and around the world (such as during the Oxford University Alumni Weekend each September), and warmly welcome Rhodes alumni to events at Rhodes House when you are visiting Oxford – please be in touch to let us know when you are coming. The development of an online community should create further opportunities for Scholars to connect around the world: more details will emerge over the coming year. I am delighted at the increase in Rhodes alumni activity in several countries over the past 12 months.
Highlights this coming year include:
Please do come if you can. Further details will be circulated closer to the dates. As in 2011, when the Vice-Chancellor (Professor Andrew Hamilton) and I travelled together to Vancouver, Australia, and New Zealand, it is likely that more alumni events will be held in conjunction with the University.
Increasing the activities for Scholars in Oxford and alumni communications and events are two outcomes of the consultation of the Rhodes community over recent years. Another has been the renewal of the governance of the Trust, including the appointment of Trustees (many of them passionately committed Rhodes Scholars) from several countries around the world. Over this last year, Miss Ros Hedley-Miller and Professor Sir John Vickers have retired as Trustees, and Dame Helen Ghosh (head of the British Home Office) has become a Trustee. Lord Waldegrave – who had served as Trustee since 1992, and as Chairman since 2002 – retired at the end of November, and was warmly thanked during the Alumni Weekend in September and at the Coming Up Dinner in October. His portrait now hangs in the Beit Room. He has been succeeded as Chairman by Dr John Hood (New Zealand & Worcester 1976), former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland (1999-2004) and of Oxford (2004-09). As you may recall, John was chosen by the Trustees after all Scholars and the wider public were invited to make nominations for the Chairmanship, and over 60 names were put forward.
Our fundraising efforts have gathered considerable momentum, as was reflected in the Inaugural Honour Roll of Donors published in September. All of us are urged to support the Scholarships to the best of our ability – through Annual Giving, major gifts, and bequests. I have recently written to Scholars in the U.S. regarding Annual Giving there, and all Scholars around the world will be hearing from me and/or another Scholar to encourage your support. Securing tax deductibility in Canada has been a major step forward, and Australia is expected to follow by Easter. Many Scholars around the world have already stepped forward to help generously, according to their capacity. Thank you for all you have done, and all you will do. The participation of as many of us as possible is very important: it maximises support, encourages those of us capable of major gifts to give generously, and strengthens our case for support to non-Scholar individuals, foundations, and companies. Every gift – and every name on the Honour Roll (which will again come out next September) – makes a difference.
Rhodes Scholars, of course, make a difference in all sorts of ways around the world every day of the year. The impact of Rhodes Scholars is increasingly reflected on our website, with details of Scholar appointments, books, and (sadly) deaths, and with other features – including a promotional feature called ‘Scholar of the Week’, showcasing the diversity and contributions of Rhodes Scholars. News stories on the website this year have recognised a remarkable number of appointments of Rhodes women in late 2010 and early 2011 to public posts in the U.S., from California to Rhode Island to the White House; the election of Bob Rae (Ontario & Balliol 1969) as leader of the Liberal Party in Canada, prominent among many Rhodes Scholars in elective public office internationally; and recognition by TIME magazine of young U.S. military Scholars who are making a difference ‘back home’. The year ends with Kingwa Kamencu (Kenya & Wolfson 2009) running for President of Kenya, Holly Walker (New Zealand & University 2007) elected to the New Zealand Parliament as a Green, and a number of Scholars elected or re-elected to public office in the U.S., such as Bobby Jindal (Louisiana & New College 1992), re-elected Governor of Louisiana. Among the Rhodes Scholars at the funeral of Sir Zelman Cowen were Bob Hawke (Western Australia & University 1953), former Prime Minister of Australia, and Tony Abbott (New South Wales & Queen’s 1981), the Opposition Leader.
2011 also ends with the election around the world of the Rhodes class of 2012. Their details are on our website here. The class of 2012 includes three Mandela Rhodes Scholars chosen in open competition for Rhodes Scholarships in South Africa and Zimbabwe - a reflection of the high calibre of Mandela Rhodes Scholars. It was my privilege this year to sit with four selection committees – three in South Africa, and one in the U.S. – and I am again reminded of the conscientious and thoughtful work done by selection committees in all our countries. We are deeply indebted to them, and to the national and committee secretaries who organise them. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating: and the quality of the young people elected as Rhodes Scholars is extremely high. By the time you get this letter, around 100 will have been to a Christmas Dinner at Rhodes House on Monday night, and we will be looking forward to having about 30 for lunch at Rhodes House on Christmas Day. I can hardly wait.
I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and a great year in 2012!
Dr Donald Markwell
(Queensland and Trinity 1981)
Warden of Rhodes House