Why Leaving a Bequest to Cambridge Matters to Me

Allison Goodwin (Clare, 1985)

Allison Goodwin

I grew up on the campus of a boarding school in Michigan where my parents were teachers. That early experience may have left me with an unusual sense of connection to the schools and universities I’ve been fortunate to attend. Among them, Clare College and Cambridge hold a special place in my affections. The focus of supervisions and small group classes helped me to deepen and refine my ability to write and think. The kindness, intelligence, insight, good humor, and respectfulness of supervisors and my fellow students, and the beauty of the colleges and town were a gift.

I’ve often heard (and read) other alumni comment that their time at Cambridge was a precious period in their lives. That feeling was evident in the obituaries in Clare’s 2019 alumni Review, which left me with a surprising sense of kinship for the former Clare members who’d recently passed away—an unusually interesting, open-minded, thoughtful, bright, and adventurous lot.

I decided to give a bequest to Clare because of the quality of the education that Clare and the university offer, and because studying in such a unique, beautiful, and intellectually stimulating environment can be life changing. Clare’s development office has been generous in taking the time to discuss the college’s efforts and its future plans in areas that concern me most.

The planet faces daunting challenges, and our educational institutions must serve as role models in helping to bring about change. Economic, gender, and racial inequalities; global warming and pollution; and the rise of extremism and certain new technologies threaten democracy, human rights, and the environment. It’s a time when so much human activity causes harm. I believe the college will continue to work to address these challenges, and I’m optimistic that the university as a whole will make greater strides toward acknowledging women’s and minorities’ contributions to history, literature, etc. in the curricula for the Tripos exams. What our institutions recognize as important works, people, events, and ideas will shape our future in incalculable ways.

By giving money or time, taking an active role in college projects, or voicing hopes and concerns, we may remain involved. Collectively, our contributions will help to shape Cambridge’s future, and have an impact on generations to come.

Elizabeth de Clare’s 1359 Preamble to the Statutes of the Foundress of Clare College (below) is a reminder we’ve all benefitted from the generosity of earlier generations. That it took over 700 years from the date of her gift for Cambridge’s (formerly all-male) colleges to admit women is evidence that those who see the need for change should get involved. De Clare’s legacy and ideas helped to shape Cambridge and her religion, and to define the way that universities are structured.

“…. Experience, the universal guide, plainly shows that learning is no mean advantage in every rank of life … Though many people seek it in many ways, it is best acquired in a recognized university community; and when its pupils have acquired it and tasted its sweets, it sends them out well qualified to rise according to their merits… But so many have been swept away by the ravages of the plague that learning has lately suffered a sad decline in numbers. We, therefore, desiring to assist true religion and to further the public good by promoting learning so far as God has put it in our power to do so, have turned our attention to the University of Cambridge in the diocese of Ely, where there is a body of students. Our purpose is that through their study and teaching at the university they should discover and acquire the precious pearl of learning, so that it does not stay hidden under a bushel but is displayed abroad to enlighten those who walk in the dark paths of ignorance. And to enable the scholars residing in our said college to live in harmony under the protection of a firm discipline and so enjoy greater freedom to study, we have with the advice of experts made certain statutes and ordinances, set out below to stand in perpetuity.