Ann's Court — a lasting testament
Ann’s Court at Selwyn College is a lasting tribute to alumnus Chris Dobson's love for his late wife Ann.
The Court is named after Ann, the wife of Dr Chris Dobson (Selwyn 1957). They met on a blind-date in 1959 at Llandough Hospital, where Ann was a nurse. She visited Selwyn later that year when he was an undergraduate, a lasting College memory for him. Their long and happy marriage ended when Ann died in 2015.
In the intervening years, Chris built up a successful semiconductor equipment business. When it was sold, Ann and Chris decided to put a significant amount of money into the Ann D Foundation, which was designed to be used to support education. Chris says he will always be grateful to Selwyn for accepting him after completing his National Service. He has had a strong association with the College throughout his adult life, and was fortunate enough, late in life, to return to Selwyn and study for a PhD in material science.
I will always be grateful to Selwyn for admitting me as an undergraduate and moving heaven and earth to allow me to remain at Cambridge to finish my degree. It is my wish for Ann to be remembered at the College that has been such an important part of my life.
He and Ann had long been interested in the idea of contributing to buildings at Cambridge. Their permanence was appealing, and when the idea of a new Court was raised in the early 2000s Chris was drawn to the idea of “something physical to remember Ann by”. It was their gifts which allowed the first two phases of Ann’s Court to be built, which include College offices and student rooms. Completed in 2005 and 2009, they were designed by the architect Demetri Porphyrios. Chris and Ann took great pleasure in what they called the “brilliant” process by which the College, the architects and the builders delivered everything that he and Ann could have hoped for.
It was recognised, though, that the Court was not fully finished. The new buildings made up two sides of it, and the third side was comprised of existing listed College houses and hostels. But the College did have outline planning permission for the fourth side, and discussions began six years ago about the best configuration of buildings to complete the Court. Chris was even more determined after Ann’s death that the work should be finished in her memory, and he made a further very generous gift which enabled what is now a nearly-completed library and auditorium building on the corner of Grange Road and West Road. Porphyrios Associates are again responsible for the design, and Chris is already delighted with the way that the new building harmonises with the two earlier phases and with the rest of the College.
More than 1000 Selwyn alumni and friends also contributed to the building, and the library has been named by Tom Bartlam and the auditorium by Gareth Quarry and Jill Whitehouse, in recognition of their support. The new facilities will sit proudly within Ann’s Court, and Chris says he takes particular pleasure from the comments he hears about how lovely the Court is from people who don’t know of his connection with it. “There’s an awful lot of reflected enjoyment,” he says, from seeing the buildings used and appreciated by students. “And in knowing that the Court will be there, bearing Ann’s name, for centuries to come.”