History of the RSMA

This Archived History of the RSMA was written in August 2011 by
the late Professor John Murrell MBE
Emeritus Fellow of Homerton and Sometime George Peabody Professor

When Homerton College became an Approved Society of the University of Cambridge in 1976 its status changed in several respects, affecting the Principal, academic staff and students, and bringing many relationships, regulations and procedures closer in line with those of the University generally.  Nevertheless, no provision was made at that time which would make the position of academic staff retiring from Homerton in any way comparable to that of other colleges.

This remained the case until a conversation took place in 1984 between the Principal at the time, Miss Alison Shrubsole CBE, and Mr David Male, who was the Head of the Drama Department at Homerton and due to retire at the end of that academical year, The conversation concerned the possibility of continued links with College and resulted in a formal proposal from Mr.Male that the Principal, through the College’s Academic Board, should invite members of academic staff, who retired from Homerton and would be living in the Cambridge area, to become members of a ‘Homerton Retired Senior Members Association’.  The suggestion was that members of this body should be enabled to maintain contact with the college; have clear rights to use certain college facilities; remain on the University Residents List, and continue membership of the University Library and the University Graduate Centre.

After approval by both the College Academic Board and the Staff Meeting these proposals were put in to effect in March 1984 with twelve founding members. On October 16th 1984 at the instigation of the Chairman of the Homerton Combination Room Committee, Mr Peter Warner, the first meeting of the founder members of the RSMA took place in College.  Mr.Male was elected Chairman and Miss Frances Weddell as Treasurer.  Mr. Peter Warner (now Dr. Warner and Senior Tutor of the College) was invited to attend all future meetings in the role of ex-officio member and played an important role in establishing and maintaining formal links with the College.

From these early beginnings the Association, or as it is generally called, 'The RSMs’, has grown in numbers to more than seventy.  It has a written constitution with the main aim of promoting continued social and intellectual contact with the College. Its Executive Committee is responsible for the organisation of meetings, social events and other activities as appropriate to achieve this aim.

The Homerton RSMs are unique in the context of the Emeritus Societies of other Cambridge colleges in having membership representing a wider aspect of College life than the academic.  Election is now, with the approval of the Principal, not only open to members of academic staff retiring from Homerton and living locally, but to senior administrative staff and other individuals recommended by the committee as having served the College with distinction,

Over the years, particularly during the development of Homerton to Royal Charter status, the College has benefited from the reputation built within the University and nationally by these past members of the Homerton community.  The RSMA members have also contributed financial donations and other gifts to the college and still play a part in the life of the college by serving on its committees, helping with examination invigilation and supporting other college events*.

One important purpose of the RSMA is that the best of the past should be passed to the future. In this context an annual ‘Teacher Education Charter Bursary’ was established by the Association in 2010** to be awarded to a graduate of Homerton who wishes to train for teaching on the University of Cambridge PGCE programme.


* With the now different status of College, RSMs no longer serve on College Committees or help with examination invigilation but do continue to support other College events.
** This continued for some years after 2010 but, with a rapidly changing profile of undergraduate courses now studied, the fund was wound up.
Dr Libby Jared, RSMA Chair, January 2023]

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