Alumni Association Medal winner: Charlie Gunter (BSc 2006, PGCE 2007, MSc 2009)

Charlie volunteering with Helena Lee, 3rd year Electrical and Electronic Engineering student

Many congratulations to Charlie Gunter (BSc 2006, PGCE 2007, MSc 2009) who was awarded the Alumni Association Medal in 2020 recognising his outstanding contribution to the Association and its activity.

Charlie began volunteering for the Alumni Association in 2007, and as well as holding three degrees from Bristol, is also currently working in the Faculty of Life Sciences in student administration.

Here’s Charlie’s story:

I first came to Bristol in September 2003, starting my undergraduate degree in Chemistry, and ‘lingered’! I decided to carry on and do my PGCE, and following that, one of my tutors spotted an opportunity to take on a funded Masters. I was very grateful to them for letting me know about the chance to continue my studies.

My first memory of Bristol was getting hopelessly lost on campus. I remember standing outside the University of Bristol sign on Tyndall Avenue and thinking, ‘where is everything from here?’. It really sunk in then just how big the University is – and I’ve noticed there are a lot more signs about the place now, so maybe I wasn’t the only one getting lost!

I never thought I’d end up becoming a member of staff at the University and being so involved in its work – I have memories of walking past certain buildings not knowing what goes on inside, and now I have explored so much. You also don’t realise how much the University is spread out across the city.

I have volunteered in lots of different ways for the Alumni Association, though my most active role has been with the Wills Hall Association, a volunteer-led organisation which helps keep current and past residents connected. It started out quite straightforward – as JCR President I was asked to help organise a reunion of former JCR Presidents and so was co-opted onto the Committee for a fixed three-month period. This three-month stint evolved and soon I was the Secretary of the Association and ended up being its Chair for six years.

During this time, I’ve also been involved in some of the other Hall Associations and tried hard to get more people together get organised and to celebrate their time at Bristol – this resulted in a very big joint Halls dinner with our Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor in attendance, with The Rt Hon. the Lord Boateng LLD (LLB 1973, LLD 2007) speaking. It was such a collaborative effort and great to work with so many different people.

As a sixth former, I’d volunteered in local theatre and whilst studying, I was a senior tutor in the Hall so I was used to doing what I can to help the community. Getting involved as a volunteer in the Alumni Association seemed like a natural next step for me. My first mission was great fun – I’d always seen the names of the former JCR Presidents in the Hall bar so playing detective, hunting them down and finally putting faces to names was a great role for me! It’s also very satisfying to bring people back to Bristol who haven’t been involved before.

For me, the Alumni Association is about keeping a candle in the window, reminding people that the University is here, for whenever and however they’d like to reconnect.

The 90th Anniversary Celebration at Wills Hall in 2019 was a particularly good example of this (and in hindsight, I’m very pleased we chose to run our event before Christmas as it would not have been possible if left until 2020!). We were so pleased to welcome members who travelled a long way and had not been back to Bristol for years and see alumni who graduated in the 1950s alongside current students.

This year, we’ve embraced the digital age and the opportunities that brings – earlier this year, the Wills Hall Association organised a speaker event with Kim Slim (LLB 2016), Head of Grenfell Community Support Team, and we were able to welcome Wills alumni from all over the world – we had members from as far as Thailand and Canada on the call!

For those of you considering getting involved in the Alumni Association – I’d say that there’s no expectations on anyone, so just join in the conversation and you never know, you might have an idea that no-one has thought of before. Show a bit of interest and you never know where it might go, and how much of a difference you could make to other people.

Where will I keep my Medal? I have a shelf of ‘Bristol things’ – a tankard, another tankard.. and a gavel – and now a Medal. It’ll definitely go on that shelf!

I often wonder what would have happened if I had just left after finishing my undergraduate degree, and it’s just impossible to guess because of how huge the impact Bristol has had on me has been. I like to hope that I’ve been able to make a positive difference on people in Bristol along the way.

It is lovely to be recognised in this way for the work I’ve done.”

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.

Charlie has been untiring in his support for students and alumni for many years, as JCR President, as a senior resident and more recently as Chair of the Wills Hall Association. Charlie has led from the front: organising lunches, lectures, reunions and bringing the celebrations of Wills Hall’s 80th and 90th anniversaries to life. Charlie is also a trustee of the Wills Hall Trust, managing alumni donations for the good of students and alumni. His commitment to Wills Hall and the wider alumni community is outstanding, and I’m delighted to confer the Alumni Medal for his service”.

If you would like to get involved – especially in coordinating events and activities for other members of the Bristol community – please get in touch by emailing alumni-volunteers@bristol.ac.uk

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