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Durham First

Spot the Difference

What does the Durham Difference mean to you?

We asked some of our alumni what made Durham University so special for them.

Tim Smit

Tim Smit
Hatfield College 1973-76,
Archaeology and Anthropology
Founder of the Eden Project

"The Durham Difference is everything to me as we were encouraged to try everything - my pervading memory was of the extraordinary fusion of idealism and commitment to achieve change. Durham was my crucible where all the different interests and urges that drive me and inspire me were made real and forged me into the person I would eventually become. By a winding road maybe, but a road map was sketched there, in the shadow of a castle and a cathedral, juxtaposed against the outline of the slagheaps, the fortunes from which had, in some not too distant time, created the wealth that made it all possible."

Diane Sinnett

Diane Sinnett (née Ackroyd)
Van Mildert College 1978-81,
Chemistry
Managing Director at Tricom Services Ltd

"It all seems a very long time ago now, but it only takes a few minutes from first spotting the Cathedral as I drive into town to feeling that warm sense of belonging. I don't know what it is about Durham that engenders such a sense of well being and familiarity but it's certainly something that has stayed with me through the years. I've held many positions and been part of several communities in the period since leaving University behind, but none has instilled quite the same "family" spirit. I have many, many happy memories of my time there."

Paul Hawkins

Paul Hawkins
Grey College 1993-96,
Natural Sciences
Founder of Hawk-Eye Innovations Limited

"My time at Durham was fundamental to me becoming an entrepreneur. The collegiate system provides the opportunity for so many people to be in charge of something, express themselves and find out what they can achieve. I still feel that running the boat club was my first small business and has provided me with invaluable transferable life skills and experience. I taught Steve Carter to row as a freshman in 1998 and he is now my right hand man within Hawk-Eye. I think I tell him what to do now in pretty much the same way as I did back in Durham!"

Tim Stimpson

Tim Stimpson
Grey College 1992-95,
Anthropology
International rugby player

"It was okay and almost expected of you to be different. I felt accepted by my peers in lectures, in the college bar and on the sports field. This gave me the confidence to decide what I was passionate about. So many gifted and clear thinking people together created a great atmosphere. We did not have time for negativity or undermining one another. I spend my life trying to convert my potential and help others do the same. That's just what Durham is all about!"

Lucy Beresford

Lucy Beresford
Trevelyan 1984-87,
English Literature
Author of Something I'm Not

"The diagnosis was clear: late adolescence, with recurring episodes of aimlessness. The possible cure? Three years at Durham. Blissful years, spent watching morning mists over the Wear, tracing the confident Norman architecture, being kissed (almost) by George Michael in the Assembly Rooms, and making gratuitous cups of coffee for friends I still regularly see. Immersed in six intoxicating centuries of English literature, I aspired to write one day novels of my own. Durham made me believe in myself, gave me the confidence to aim high, and honed the writing and observation skills necessary to become a writer. In short, Durham defilibrated my life."

Lucy’s novel Something I’m Not is out now in paperback.
 What does the Durham Difference mean to you?
Send in your thoughts and memories to: durham.editor@durham.ac.uk