In June 1983 my wife and I attended festivities in Oxford to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Rhodes Scholarships.
With our printed invitations in hand, we went to a Garden Party at Rhodes House in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. They walked around a roped circle in the center of an eager gathering of over 1,400 former Scholars and spouses. From time to time they stopped to engage someone in conversation. We were not close enough to be candidates for being selected for such a conversation. But it was exciting to be there.
The “Court Circular” in The Times of London the next day reported that “The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh . . . visited Rhodes House, Oxford (Warden Dr. R. A. Fletcher) and attended the Rhodes Scholars’ Reunion Garden Party. [They] . . . were received on arrival by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for Oxfordshire (Sir Ashley Ponsonby, Bt.), the Chairman of the Rhodes Trustees (the Lord Blake) and the Chancellor of the University (the Right Hon. Harold Macmillan).”
At the University of Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the University’s Vice-Chancellor convened the Congregation of the University (an official meeting of the senior members of the University). He then awarded Honorary Degrees to five former Rhodes Scholars. Doctors of Civil Law were awarded to Don Price, Emeritus Professor of Government and Public Management at Harvard University; The Honourable Robert Aaron Gordon Robertson, former Secretary to the Canadian Cabinet and to the Canadian Cabinet for Federal-Provincial Relations; and General Bernard William Rogers, Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Doctors of Letters were awarded to the Rt. Hon. Sir Zelman Cowen, the former Governor-General of Australia; and Robert Penn Warren, U.S. novelist, poet and Emeritus Professor of English at Yale University.
The Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford was the site for a Thanksgiving Service. The Bidding Prayer by The Rev’d Dr. J. K. McConica, a former Canadian Rhodes Scholar, gave “thanks for the benefits enjoyed in this place through the munificence of our Founder, Cecil John Rhodes” and prayed “for ourselves, that we may use to God’s glory the gifts and opportunities with which we have been so abundantly blessed.” The Rev’d Dr. David Alexander, an American Rhodes Scholar, in his closing prayer gave “hearty thanks for thy servant Cecil John Rhodes our Founder, by whose bounty we are here brought up to godliness and the studies of good learning.” Alexander then offered A Prayer for the Nations, A Prayer for the Universities, A Prayer for All Men in Their Vocation and a General Thanksgiving prayer.
A gala anniversary dinner was held in large marquees in the garden of Oxford’s Trinity College. Toasts to Her Majesty the Queen and to the Founder were offered by the Chairman of the Rhodes Trust, The Right Hon. Lord Blake. Welcoming remarks were made by the Chairman and by The Right Hon. Harold Macmillan, the Chancellor of the University and former Prime Minister of the U.K. The response on behalf of the guests was made by J. Ogilvie Thompson, a South African Rhodes Scholar at Worcester College (before my time) and the CEO of AngloGold Ashanti, a gold-mining company in South Africa.
The dinner menu featured Ogen Melon, Darne de Saumon, Le Supreme de Volaille Suedoise, Haricots verts, Pommes Nouvelles and Mille Feuille. The wines were Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling 19980, Gold Label Rhine Riesling Ashbrook Estate 1982, Cabernet Sauvignon Newton Vineyard 1980 and Paarl Vintage 1961 port.