Informal annual General Meeting and Letter from the Chairman 2021
Informal annual General Meeting - 23 September 2021 at 6.00 p.m. via Zoom.
The formal annual general Meeting of the Friends of Peterhouse has traditionally been held at the College as part of the annual summer College Gathering. However, the constraints caused by the Covid-19 pandemic mean that this year’s Gathering (as the previous year’s) has been cancelled.
In the absence of the usual AGM, and the uncertainty of when another could be held, the Council of the Friends felt obliged to make arrangements so that the business of the Friends could continue to be conducted. Thus at a meeting earlier in the year the Council resolved that in the most unusual circumstances of the pandemic the Council itself should be authorised to adopt the annual report and accounts for 2019/20, to confirm the appointment of any Council member appointed during the year and to re-elect members retiring by rotation.
However, the Council is anxious to keep members of the Friends informed of what is being done. With that objective, the Chairman wrote a letter to members in June, which the College kindly circulated, setting out what the Friends were doing and providing financial information. The letter is also pasted below. The Council is also very glad to take the opportunity kindly provided by the College to join in a Zoom meeting to be held on 23 September at 6 pm, which will be for the purpose of the AGM of the Peterhouse Society but which will also allow an informal general meeting of the Friends. Those members of the Friends attending are welcome to put any questions they may have, and also to take note of:
- The report and accounts for the year ended 30 September 2020;
- The election to the council, having been initially appointed during the year, of A C Abrahams, and the re-election of four members of the Council retiring by rotation, namely: I Peters, E Kreling, Z A LeScrooge and Lord Thomas of Gresford.
- The reappointment of Field Sullivan as Independent Examiner.
It is of course hard to foresee future circumstances, but perhaps this informal meeting will provide useful experience for a means of returning to the formal Annual General Meeting next year.
E C Neve
Letter from the Chairman 2021
When I wrote my annual letter last year, I could not have envisaged doing so twelve months on with the global pandemic still with us. The world has experienced unparalleled social and economic disruption, massive loss of life touching just about everyone, with likely fundamental and sustained changes to how we live and work. At the time of writing, the pandemic is still raging in some parts of the world, and significant uncertainty remains for those living in the UK. In that context, life at College has understandably been seriously disrupted and the Friends have worked closely with the College to adapt our support in the last year.
As I set out in my letter a year ago, the Friends had undertaken two major reviews in 2019: one to refresh its purpose to focus on student health and wellbeing, with a particular emphasis on mental health and inclusivity; the second to restructure our investment policy to diversify away from the UK and reflect global GDP growth. Both of these changes have turned out to be prescient given the pandemic as amplified below.
Due to obvious challenges with Audit processes which have delayed the finalisation of the Accounts, all of the figures for 2019/2020 below are provisional at the time of writing.
Grants made during 2019/2020
The total of grants made from the General Fund for the year ended 30th September 2020 was £122,361, up 91% on the prior year. The main reason for the uplift was a donation of £50,000 referenced in my letter last year to support the students during the stresses and disruption of the pandemic. This fund was disbursed via the Senior Tutor on application by students with up to £100 available to every eligible person. A very wide range of grants were made with a wealth of positive feedback for the Friends from students, the Senior Tutor and indeed the Master in terms of the uplift this had on morale and wellbeing. £2,500 from within the overall donation was allocated for the creation and publication of year book written by and featuring those graduating in 2020. This proved a huge hit.
The full schedule of grants was as follows:
- £50,000 grant for pandemic support
- £25,000 for the full time mental health adviser. This was her first year in post and she has understandably been in high demand. A report produced for the Governing Body earlier this year evidenced the value and importance of this role
- £10,000 for the part time student counsellor. The Friends have funded this role for three years. The combination of these two roles puts the College at the forefront of mental health support provision among Cambridge colleges
- £25,000 to the Senior Tutor’s fund in line with the prior year. This fund is for purposes where no other source of financial support is available and covers a very wide range of applications from urgent medical referrals, financial distress, hardship caused by changes to family circumstances, and supporting College minority groups to enhance inclusivity
- £4,900 for academic prizes including the de Montmorency Law Prize and the VI form essay prizes
- £2,500 for yoga classes. These were delivered virtually given the pandemic constraints and were very well attended as a form of stress relief and relaxation
In addition to the General Fund, the Friends Medical Fund was endowed several years ago by a single donor to promote research into mental illness among young adults. Professor Edward Bullmore leads the academic team at the University’s Department of Psychiatry and the Friends are supporting a multi year research programme under his direction, currently with two postgraduate posts at Peterhouse. £38,936 was disbursed to support the programme in 2019/2020 with this likely to increase in the next two years. Professor Bullmore and his team are regular publishers of research papers which are often picked up in the wider media exploring linkages between physical conditions and mental illness.
For the current academic year the Friends stand ready to support further specific requests arising from the pandemic. Otherwise our financial support is expected to broadly mirror items (ii-vi) above plus a three year commitment to fund additional leavers’ year books made by an individual member of the Friends.
The Friends’ Assets
As at 30th September 2020 the General Fund was valued at £1,952,072, up 10% on the past year, including £298,395 held in cash. This increase results from the change in the geographic and industry sector focus of the assets made between the years. Had the previous UK centred portfolio been in place, we would have seen a fall in value of c.15%.
The Medical Fund was £292,291 including £81,638 in cash, and 16% down on the prior year. This reflects the funding of the research programme and the UK centric nature of the assets.
Overall funds were up 6% at £2,244,363 including £380,033 held in cash.
Income received during 2019/2020
Investment income from the General Fund was £19,376, down 64% on the prior year as the new portfolio is designed for longer term capital growth in the Friends’ assets, rather than shorter term income generation. Income from gifts, donations and legacies to the General Fund was in line with prior year at £7,063 as no legacies were received and individual donations fell slightly. We have been advised of a further legacy payment due in the current financial year.
The College Development telephone campaign has included a Friends of Peterhouse Wellbeing Fund for the past two years. In 2019/2020 it generated £4,000 and in January this year donations were at a similar level. These funds have yet to be disbursed and are subject to discussion with the College and Presidents of the JCR and MCR, with whom regular meetings are now held and which have proved to be a valuable way of keeping in touch with student priorities.
Investment income from the Medical Fund was £14,087, marginally lower than in the prior year.
The AGM will be held virtually on 23rd September 2021 at 6.00 p.m., at the same event and immediately before a “state of the nation” speech by The Master. The Annual Report and Financial Accounts should be presented to members at the AGM and will be available to any member on request from either myself or Ann Munro at the College office in the days before the meeting.
There have been changes in the composition of the Council in the last year. After 17 years of outstanding contribution to the Friends, David Burnett stood down from Council. His wisdom as Chair of the Investments Committee is evidenced by the changes made under his stewardship in 2019, and he has been a source of sustained support and constructive challenge. With David’s departure, Jenny Quan (m.2008) has kindly taken up the chair of the Investments Commitment. Jenny is an investment management professional.
Ashley Abrahams (m.2009) has also joined the Council and the Investment Committee in the last year and works in the private equity field.
The Council continues to receive excellent support from Dr Saskia Murk Jansen as Development Director and Dr Stephen Hampton as Senior Tutor. We also welcome and value the support and involvement of the Master who continues to take a close interest in the activities of the Friends. My thanks also to Ann Munro and her team in the College Office, the Presidents of the JCR and MCR, and this year particularly the Development team who helped with the restructuring and updating of the Friends web pages on the College website.
I would also like to thank all members of the Council who gave up their time voluntarily and conduct their business with considerable thought, diligence and insight. For the year just gone I would especially mention David Jeffreys, our Honorary Treasurer, and Edward Neve, our Secretary. David has had exceptional workloads due to the complications of the investment strategy changes flowing through the financial accounts. Edward is the most diligent of secretaries who has handled many administrative changes in the past year and has skilfully led discussions with Professor Bullmore on the use of the Medical Fund.
I wish all members good health and I look forward to seeing some of you at the virtual AGM.
If you have any observations or questions please feel free to contact me at the email address below.
With kindest regards
Ian Peters (Peterhouse 1977)
Chairman 2016 –