A Farewell to Dame Carol Black

In writing a tribute to Dame Carol Black, it’s easy to list her achievements. They are many, and they are impressive. But what both the College and alumnae will remember is not achievements, but personality.

We will remember the sharp, insightful advice – often with an unexpected perspective, always from her wealth of experience. On topics such as confidence (dress boldly and you’ll feel bold), failure (brush yourself down and have another go), and giving up (don’t), Dame Carol’s words are remembered and passed on.

Then there’s her glee in a really good party, her love of a lively conversation, her overwhelming value for top-quality academic research.

“Her extraordinary energy, her determination to seek out challenges, her quick political intelligence.”

She has a vision of what is possible, and she drives herself and everyone else to meet it. The journey is not always comfortable, but the results are hugely rewarding.

No-one, of course, will forget Dame Carol’s sense of style. The slim-cut, elegant dresses, the vibrant jackets (matched, of course, with a vintage brooch), the bold glasses framing sharp blue eyes. She is surely the only Head of House ever to look impeccable while wearing an air boot for a broken ankle.

One evening in Newnham Walk, though, a leather-clad figure climbed off a motorbike, pulled off a helmet, and was revealed as Newnham’s Principal. The reason for the unusual transport? She needed to get from chairing a meeting of the British Library, to host a dinner at Newnham, within one hour – a motorbike seemed simply the most effective way to do it.

Never predictable, always determined, and able to pack more into one day than many of us do in a week, Dame Carol Black will be much missed by the alumnae and College members.