Alumni Association Medal winner: Julian Metcalfe (BSc 1978)

Julian with members of the London Branch Committee (picture taken in 2018).

Many congratulations to Julian Metcalfe (BSc 1978) who was awarded the Alumni Association Medal in 2020 recognising his outstanding contribution to the Association and its activities.

Julian has been Chair of the London Branch of the University of Bristol Alumni since 2016. He is now settled in London after an international career in diplomacy, which took him around the world after completing his studies at Bristol.

Here are Julian’s reflections:

“I studied at Bristol between 1975 and 1978, graduating with a BSc in Economics and Politics. I was an elected member of the Union Council. And I loved being right in the heart of Clifton (at Clifton Hill House) and enjoyed walking around its green spaces and cobbled streets! I’ve been back to Bristol a few times since and much of it is barely recognisable now (all for the better- I look forward to seeing the new Temple Quarter Campus!) but Clifton itself hasn’t changed that much.

When I think back to my time at Bristol, one tutor, Professor Richard Hodder- Williams, comes to mind as it was due to his influence that I went to work in Africa after I graduated. He is such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable person, and he really prompted me to think about the core issues in African politics- I became a development economist and on leaving Bristol, started my professional career with the government of Malawi. I was lucky enough to meet him again recently. Amazingly, 40 years on, he remembered me! That is some special academic.

I took on the role of Chair of the London Branch of the University of Bristol after having sat on the Committee for five or six years. I got involved after attending an alumni event, and a former Foreign Office colleague of mine who was already volunteering twisted my arm to join the Committee.

It has been great being involved. After having worked oversees for so long, it’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet and work with so many different people from the Bristol alumni network here.

The London Branch is there to try and bring together Bristol alumni of all ages and backgrounds, and we always try to introduce new things to the programme of activities. What I’m most proud of, as Chair, is bringing together Bristol’s three Olympic medal winners (Rio 2016) for a panel discussion event- I hope that the advice and stories they shared will be an inspiration for elite athletes to come.

The Annual Carol Service has also been great to get off the ground- though of course, this had to be changed this year. At one point, it was looking like we could go ahead with the service, but we wouldn’t be allowed to sing!

A pub night on the river Thames also brought a lot of our more recently graduated members out to get involved- the fact that we offered a free drink may have helped. We continue to support the University’s recent graduates careers events by sharing updates from the Branch and helping us to find volunteers who are established in their fields to come and share their expertise- we know there have been examples of recent grads securing internships and new roles following these networking events, which enables everyone to hear about opportunities that they may not have done otherwise.

Volunteering for the London Branch keeps you learning- the programme is very varied and we’ve been lucky to welcome eminent speakers from the arts, sciences, politics, sports and everything between. Each different style of event attracts different members of the Bristol alumni network as well, so you’re always meeting new people and hearing their stories about their time at Bristol. The Branch- whether you’re giving up your time as a volunteer or getting involved by joining in the events- provides an excellent platform to meet people you wouldn’t meet otherwise.

As a volunteer, I’ve also attended the Alumni Reunion back in Bristol, events held by other Branches and participated in the University’s Court as an Alumni Association Representative. I’d encourage anyone to get involved- it can sometimes seem like its alumni who are approaching retirement or in retirement who consider these kinds of roles, but I do what I can do to encourage younger generations to get involved as you often meet people whose connection can benefit you professionally.

Where will I be keeping my Medal? I might not wear it around my neck the whole time but I certainly won’t be hiding it away- it’ll be proudly on display.

That is because the University gave me the knowledge and skills to embark on a very interesting career. I have really enjoyed paying back that debt by volunteering, and am honoured to have been recognised with the award of this Medal.

Jon Phillips (BSc 1994, Chair of the Alumni Association, said:

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the amazing contributions our alumni make to the alumni community itself. We are a volunteer network ultimately and while 2020 has been a highly unusual year, it remains true that our association would be nothing without our volunteers. So, I am honoured to recognise two such volunteers, conferring the Alumni Association Medal to Charlie Gunter and Julian Metcalfe.

Julian has been an active volunteer for many years and more recently, Chair of the London Branch of the University of Bristol Alumni. Under his leadership, the Branch has delivered a huge range of engagements, from the annual carol singing- hugely popular and much anticipated each year- to the annual lecture, most recently delivered by our Chancellor, Sir Paul Nurse FRS FMedSci, and attended by record numbers. Julian’s continued dedication and contribution to the University, to London alumni and to the wider alumni community made him an obvious and deserved recipient of the Alumni Association Medal.

If you are keen to get involved in volunteering, please take a look at our current opportunities.

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