At our 41st Charter Dinner on 24th October 2014, Sir Alan Langlands, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds became an Honorary Member of our club. No matter that the carpet at the entrance to the Village function room was a sort of beige and white tartan, the 2014 Headingley Rotary Club Charter Night Dinner was a red carpet occasion, and many of the Leeds Rotary glitterati were in attendance!
Among the total of 81 attendees were guest of honour, Sir Alan Langlands, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leeds, and representatives of other Rotary clubs in the area. Amongst these was a stuffed polar bear, sitting quietly at a table waiting to be fed. Later, Sir Alan later offered to shoot it should it become necessary, since he had been briefed on the procedure by the University’s former Dean of Environmental Studies, now first woman Director of the Arctic Survey. Thankfully, the bear showed no signs of aggression, remaining passive and even taciturn throughout.
President, Chris Walbank, welcomed everyone and then presented Sir Alan, detailing our guest’s many distinctions. Chris went on to describe the various interests and projects of Rotary in general and those in which the Headingley Club is involved in particular, notably the Sylvia Wright
Trust. He stressed, too, the enjoyment which members get, not only from their philanthropy, but also from the fellowship offered by the Club, and finally he hoped that the new relationship with the University might bring us new members of both sexes.
Former President, Fred Archenhold, initiated the inauguration of Sir Alan Langlands as an honorary member of the Club, describing its many connections with the University, including the fact that 16 existing members had been either alumni or staff at one time or another and that several members had been wardens of the Club’s spiritual and gastronomic home of Devonshire Hall.
President Chris then welcomed Sir Alan to the Club and to the Rotary Movement world-wide, presented him with his badge and a special certificate and invited him to take an active interest in the activities of the Club.
Sir Alan began his address by questioning the advisability of a Leeds University Vice Chancellor attending a function on the Otley Road on a Friday night, considering the reputation the Otley Run has among local residents, but said that it was good to celebrate the relationship between the University and the Headingley Club. He drew attention to the similarities between the Club and the University in terms of the contributions of both to the community and explained that 3,500 of the University’s approximately 31,000 students are currently volunteering to help a total of 21 charities. 400 of these students are providing support in local primary and secondary schools as tutors and mentors. Law students are providing free legal advice, and others work with hostels for the homeless, co-ordinate sandwich runs for the hungry on the streets of Leeds, run drug information sessions in schools and have ten times visited orphanages in Romania. The University itself is the third largest employer in Leeds but has also to look outwards (it is currently corresponding with 225,000 alumni in 190 countries), and universities in general will play a part in tackling global health and developing new technologies to solve the world’s problems with water and food. Finally, Leeds University wants to do more to help students’ personal growth to enable them better to take part in the modern world. In all these, the University shares common aims with the Rotary organisation. In his closing words, President Chris thanked the Vice Chancellor, agreeing that the Club and the University share a common identity in many respects.
As an event, the Charter Night Dinner achieved two very important things: first, it highlighted the similar approaches to the community shared by the Club and the University, and, second, it showcased for our guests the Club’s many activities. However, in addition to being so informative, and despite being our most formal event of the year, this was a very relaxed and yet lively occasion. Indeed, the man responsible for wine sales was heard to say that he’d had his best night ever. Nevertheless, rumours that, as a result, the Village is to become the starting point for a senior version of the Otley Run are still to be substantiated.