Raymond (Ray) Jones has come back to the University of Brighton – 60 years after graduating.
The 81-year-old contacted the University out of the blue and the Students’ Union responded by inviting him for a day’s tour of the campuses during which Raymond declared: “My years in Brighton were the best of my life.”
Ray graduated from what was then Brighton Technical College near The Level in 1958 with a Diploma in Engineering, and OND in Mechanical Engineering and a First Class Intermediate and Second Class Final City and Guilds Machine Shop Engineering.
Ray chose Brighton to study because “it was the best in the world” but the driving force for him gaining a college education came from his parents – he was ashamed at failing school exams and wanted to make his mother and father proud. His head teacher helped him win a place at college by writing a testimonial to the college principal – and he was accepted.
He said: “I was determined – I did not want to let my parents down again and I knew I had something in me.”
Ray dedicated himself to his studies: “I’d wake at 6am every day and study for two hours and as soon as I came home from college I’d study for another two hours. I wanted my parents to be proud of me and, in the end, they were.”
Throughout his time in Brighton Ray was supported by his parents. They paid his term fees of £127 and sent him four £1 notes and a ten shilling note for his keep every week for the four years, from their home in Llanelli, Wales.
In those days students wore ties and jackets and as for highlights, he said: “That’s easy, it was the lunchtime dances in the college’s main hall. “They had a record player, speakers and a DJ. It was a penny to get in and that would buy you a record choice – something by Johnny Mathis, Perry Como or those new fellas, Bill Haley and Elvis-someone-or-another.” Ray met his wife at an evening dance in the college hall and the couple later married and had three children.
It wasn’t an entirely study-focused time for Ray and during one evening out with friends, he was accused of defacing the statue of Queen Victoria near the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. He insists female friends were responsible but it was he who was forced to clean up.
Ray was Secretary of what was then Brighton Students’ Association, now the Students’ Union, and he still meets with surviving colleagues to this day. “The main thing I remember is the people, friends for life, and it’s a very strange feeling coming back after all these years – I can still see myself amongst my friends here 60 years ago.” Ray said of today’s Students’ Union officers: “They’re fantastic, wonderful people.” Ray was contacted by Amy Jaiteh, the Students’ Union Vice-President Welfare and Campaigns, who said: “We were really excited to meet Ray and to hear some of his memories of when he was here.”
Ray played rugby for the college, as does Students’ Union President Calum McNally. Calum said: “Speaking with Ray, it’s incredible how much has changed as far as the fabric of buildings is concerned, and yet, how little has changed regarding student life. I listen to Ray and think ‘that’s like me all those years ago’. It’s a lovely story.”
After graduating Ray, who now lives near Dorking, Surrey, enjoyed a successful career. His final job before retiring in 2002 was Project Manager for the British Standards Institute, which he joined in 1992. He was responsible for the production and publication of the ‘Knowledge Management – a guide to good practice’ for the Institute’s predecessor, the National Standards Body.
Previously, he spent 20 years covering projects in aviation, mining and general engineering, and was responsible for the introduction of the first batch of Boeing 747 – 400 Full Flight Simulators and of heavy duty tunnelling machines for the British Mining and Civil Engineering industries.
He conducted research for Bristol Siddely Engines and worked with Sir Frank Whittle on the ‘Turbo Drill’ project, and obtained four engineering patents during his career.
During his tour Ray met the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Pole, and was impressed by the vastly improved and expanded buildings and facilities the University offers today.
But would he come back and study again? He said: “I often have dreams about things in the past and my time in Brighton, but being a student again? No way.”
That said, he’d be welcomed back in a flash. Nic Ashton, the University’s Alumni Engagement Officer, found a report card from Ray’s head of department all those years ago.
It read: “Lively, pleasant; worked reasonably well.
“Conduct – excellent.”