By Diana McElfresh
St. Bonaventure alumni, students, faculty and leaders gathered together this summer — not on campus, as one might expect, but in Oxford, United Kingdom.
From July 26 to 30, alumni of the Frances E. Kelley Oxford Program, along with others from the Bonaventure community, enjoyed four days of English tradition at one of the oldest universities in the world.
Attendees enjoyed a Pimm’s reception on their first night, which, according to Oxford program director Mike Jones-Kelley, is “uniquely English.” The reception incorporates a cocktail made with elderflower liquor mixed with “lemonade” — what Americans would call Sprite — and fresh fruit.
After their reception, they attended high table, an English university tradition that Jones-Kelley likened to dinners from Harry Potter. The following day, alumni enjoyed high tea. On the third day, a Saturday, everyone traveled to Stonehenge and later to the historic city of Bath.
On Sunday, Bonaventure had a special Mass in the Trinity College chapel, followed by a garden party. Anne Lee, assistant director of the Oxford program, said she was able to find a priest from the Oxford on short notice — in an area not quite noted for many Catholic priests. Though Fr. Richard Conrad, O.F.M., was not a friar, he was open to giving Mass when Lee and her husband, Richard Lee, Ph.D., approached him on the street one evening.
“[Fr. Richard] said ‘Let me check my calendar,’ and he went running up these high stairs and came running back down and said, ‘I can do it,’” Lee said.
Jane Stevens, ’91, attended the Oxford program 27 years ago, but to her, nothing’s changed about the city.
“Oxford is one of those wonderful places where 27 years in the span of Oxford is just a moment,” Stevens said. “I was walking in the street one night by myself and you can almost feel the presence of the people who have been there before.”
She said her experiences in Oxford led to her wanderlust, including three years in Japan, a year in Colombia and visits to 27 other countries.
“It’s something that changed my whole perspective on life,” she said.
For Meredith Kenyon, ‘03, returning to Trinity College, Oxford, this summer reinforced her belief in the power of a Bonnie.
Kenyon, who attended the Oxford Program in the summer of 2001, joined students and faculty this summer to celebrate the program’s 30th anniversary.
“Being at dinner, tea and on the bus with them reminded me of why Bonaventure is so special,” she said. “[This year’s students] reminded me of our group from 2001 and of all that Bonaventure and Oxford has taught me.”
Kenyon said experiences in Oxford shaped her life, including her love of travel; her empathy and compassion; and her career in higher education.
“It was an incredible and life-changing experience,” she explained. “To learn about the world while out in it is something that I believe everyone should work toward experiencing.”
Kelly Dickerson, ’15, who attended the program in 2014 and returned again this summer, felt drawn to return to Oxford.
“I had to go back because I loved my first experience so much that I just had to return,” she said.
Dickerson noted the experience this summer was different for her because she stayed with one of her former professors in the city of Oxford, allowing her to get a local’s experience.
The experience also gave her the opportunity to get to know President DePerro.
“I really enjoyed getting to know the new University president and the team he’s building… just to see that team and how Bona’s has this really great future, that was remarkable,” Dickerson said. “It was not something I expected to get to experience.
As with many, Kenyon had waited for the opportunity to relive her time abroad.
“I’ve wanted to return to Oxford since the day I left,” she said.