The family’s proud association with the University began in 1953, when Barbara Guise (BSc Economics, 1957) applied to do a certificate in social work, but was encouraged at the interview to instead study an economics degree: “It was a decision that I have never regretted!”
A generation later, and all three of Barbara’s scientifically minded sons chose to attend Southampton: Peter Matthews (BSc Mathematics, 1980), Andrew Matthews (BSc Mechanical Engineering, 1982), and David Matthews (BSc Mathematics, 1988).
While at an event with the University’s sailing club in his first term, Andrew met Suzanne Lewis (BSc Business Economics & Accounting, 1982), with whom he coincidentally lived at Connaught Hall; the couple married several years later and had three children. Naturally, two of them ended up studying at Southampton: James Matthews (MPhys Astrophysics, 2012; PhD Physics, 2016) – “I loved it so much I stayed for two degrees!” – and Bethany Matthews (BM Medicine, 2015).
With experiences of the University spanning 60 years, the Matthews’ memories of Southampton and their time here offer unique insights into some of the dramatic changes that have taken place – both to the campuses and to the institution itself. Barbara recalls:
“There were only 900 students at Southampton when I started, and each year the numbers gradually increased. The proportion of men was very great overall, partly because there was a large engineering department, and partly because fewer women went to university at that time. Many of the men had already done their National Service, which did give a certain maturity to the campus.”
Suzanne, having revisited the University several times since her graduation, also notes the growth: “I have driven down University Road and have felt very emotional about my time spent there. Highfield Campus is much bigger, but just as beautiful. The library is still the same outside, but my memory inside is of a much smaller entrance hall lined with wooden card index boxes where you could find book and journal locations. We had microfiche readers too, I seem to remember; they seemed very cutting edge.”
Highfield Campus isn’t the only area to have undergone a great deal of change; the accommodation was run rather differently then, as Barbara remarks: “I lived in South Hill – a beautiful old house, which held about 30 girls, and stood where Chamberlain Hall is now. Miss Ward was our Warden, who made sure that we kept to the rules (men were only allowed in at certain times). There were no such things as en suites – just a large washroom, where many late-night discussions took place!”
Brothers Peter and Andrew also share fond memories of their accommodation; both were in Connaught Hall for all three years of their time at the University. “This was the centre of my social life,” comments Peter, who took on the role of the hall’s Bar Manager for a year. “We ran some big events, taking over £1,000 in a night (remember beer was only 30p a pint at the time!).” And who better than his younger brother, Andrew, to take over the role after he left?
James and Bethany’s years at the University also overlapped. On attending at the same time as his sibling, James says: “I tried to mostly leave her to it so she didn’t have her big brother cramping her style, but we would meet for catch-ups over cups of tea. We would also bump into each other in Jesters every so often, which was funny.”
Scroll through the gallery below to see photographs spanning the Matthews’ time at the University:
So, what paths have the Matthews taken since graduating from Southampton? Barbara spent a year working at Hawker Siddeley’s head office in London as an economist – the first woman employed there not as a secretary – before getting married and returning to her hometown of Coventry, where she became the Welfare Officer at a large hospital. She later left to have Peter: “I never did return to paid employment, but the skills and knowledge I had learnt at Southampton I have been able to put good use in all sorts of voluntary work.”
Peter has spent 35 years working for a flight simulation company in West Sussex, currently responsible for the design of the A400M full flight simulators for the British, French, German, and Spanish air forces: “It’s been a fascinating career with lots of opportunities for foreign travel and the added advantage of using some very expensive ‘toys’.”
Both of Peter’s younger brothers have remained true to the family’s interest in scientific fields; Andrew has stayed in engineering, “from design through to senior management, always with a hands-on engineer’s approach!”, while David has followed a career in software engineering, most recently at the Met Office as a science fellow.
Suzanne went on to become a chartered accountant at a time when relatively few females were in the profession, and later lectured in accountancy at the University of Bristol. Her children – both having graduated only recently – are already making great strides in their careers; James is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, and Bethany has been working as a doctor in New Zealand and the West Country.
Despite having all shared Southampton as a home at some point during their lives, the family are now spread across the south of England in Bristol, Oxford, Exeter, Truro, and Shoreham-by-Sea. Barbara, meanwhile, remains at the family home in Coventry.
As well as occasionally revisiting the campus for their relatives’ graduations, some of the Matthews found lasting friendships in their fellow alumni, as Barbara explains: “The two girls with whom I shared a room at South Hill have remained great friends with my family throughout the years, as have several others. I always look forward to the Christmas cards from others whom I still hear from on a yearly basis.” One of Suzanne’s friends also became godmother to her youngest child, and she even bumped into her old tutor recently when he came to give a seminar at Bristol.
And how does it feel seeing your children follow in your footsteps and attend your alma mater? “It was actually rather lovely,” comments Suzanne. “They did not intend to follow us, but Southampton is a good university, and had the courses they wanted to do. They both did very well academically there, but more so, I am really pleased they had a positive experience from their time there, particularly when we have such fond memories.”