Our first student… and our 100,000th

John Sofie

Graduation 2018 sees Essex reaching a landmark: some time around 5pm on Thursday 19 July, Sofie Samuelsson will cross the stage of the Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall to be officially awarded her MA Linguistics and become our 100,000th graduate.

Also there on the day will be Essex’s first ever student, John Dowden. Their very different stories cover 55 years of Essex history.

When Essex first opened its doors in 1964, it admitted just 121 students – but none of them could claim to be our first, because they’d all been beaten to it the year before. John Dowden was a 23-year-old PhD student at Cambridge when his tutor, Ian Proudman, became our founding Professor of Mathematics. Ian persuaded John to come with him as his research student, looking into fluid dynamics, and the younger man suddenly found himself newsworthy. He was described in one headline as ‘The loneliest student in Britain’, and pictured outside Wivenhoe House surrounded by sheep.

Sofie also joined us a postgraduate student, although she studied Linguistics after a BA in Publishing Media at Oxford Brookes University they also differ in the length of time they’ve spent at Essex. Sofie was with us for just a year. “My time at Essex was swift, yet wonderful”, she says today. “It went by way too quickly.”

By contrast, John loved his time at Essex so much, he never left! He became a lecturer in Mathematics, and later a Professor and head of department. Having taught generations of students, he retired in 2004, the year of our 40th anniversary, and is an emeritus professor to this day.

Sofie is now an SEO (search engine optimisation) and PPC (pay per click) Specialist at Universal Web Design, which produces and hosts websites and manages its clients’ online marketing. Sofie has written her own blog for us about her Essex journey, but one notable thing about the company is that it’s pretty local. Universal Web Design is based at our Knowledge Gateway, so Sofie is still on campus.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance she’ll still be here in 40 years’ time…

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