The College received the second part of a generous £200,000 bequest from Ruth Edwards, the wife of Sir Robert (Bob) Edwards, past Fellow, Nobel Laureate and pioneer in IVF medicine, to help fund a studentship in the bio-medical field, in memory of her husband who died in 2013.
Ruth met Bob whilst at Edinburgh University around 1953 where they were both doing PhDs in Genetics. Ruth was very bright and greatly enjoyed her time at University and this was evident in the stories she used to tell to her daughters. Their family recall that one of the scientists Bob most admired was Ernest Rutherford and for the first three months of their relationship he didn’t know that Ruth was in fact, Ernest Rutherford’s grand-daughter! They became engaged during the course of their collaboration in Edinburgh and married in 1954 before departing for a year in California where they worked closely together to publish several joint papers before the birth of their first daughter.
They went on to have five daughters in under five years which was a full-time job for Ruth in the early years. By this time Bob was working at Cambridge University and becoming very involved in the field of human reproduction. Once the girls were at secondary school Ruth re-joined Bob at the University and she went on to produce further research papers in her own right. In 1978 they moved to a farm in Dry Drayton which led to a whole new range of projects for Ruth including the establishment of an award winning herd of angora goats with the help of IVF! From these she produced luxury wool for sale and created jumpers, sweaters and scarves that she sold at the farm shop. Living on a farm also facilitated Bob’s lifelong passion for trees. His daughters recall that he planted thousands of trees on the farm in his spare time, often returning from dinner at Churchill College on a summer evening to water and plant new trees until dusk descended!
Throughout his life, Bob was conscious of the importance of education for young people and was hugely motivated by the challenge of engaging bright minds to ‘think outside the box’ during his years of supervising graduate students at Cambridge in the late1960’s and 70’s. He was a demanding supervisor and expected much from his students but many of them have never forgotten what they owe to him. Ruth and her children were aware of Bob’s wish to give something back to future generations of students by leaving a legacy for the College and her bequest has brought this to fruition.
He was always someone who pushed boundaries throughout his life in the field of human reproduction and IVF and we believe that the reason for his desire to leave some money to the College was to help future generations of bright students to study in this or a related field and give them the opportunity of coming to Churchill College. He was also conscious of the fact that many students struggle financially at university and always remembered experiencing this himself at Edinburgh University.’
—Caroline Roberts & Jenny Joy (two of Bob and Ruth’s daughters)
Michael Schoof has recently become the first beneficiary of the Professor Sir Robert Edwards studentship and is undertaking a research based MSc as part of Professor Julie Ahringer’s research group in the Gurdon Institute. Michael’s project will investigate the function of the Retinoblastoma/DREAM complex, in which dysregulation is linked to human cancers, including those of the reproductive system.