From the President
Accomplished and awe-inspiring – in tribute to the alumni of Imperial College London
I will never forget the first time I met Dr Hiralal ‘Hiru’ Patel, and his gleeful description of his 1930s trek from India to London, where he studied Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautics. With a twinkle in his eye, he told of the nights when bombs were dropping across West London and he would run from his room in Earl’s Court to his lab at Imperial to check on his PhD experiments on ‘flutter’, the unstable oscillations on an aircraft wing.
When I met him again later in India, where he was a legendary pioneer in the plastics industry, what struck me was his generous support of our alumni gatherings and the warm welcome he gave me, my husband Brad and Imperial colleagues. As a proud 99-year-old alumnus, his positivity motivated younger alumni and touched everyone around him. We all mourned his passing in 2021 at age 101. Thanks to his family’s generosity, his legacy will be immortalised in the Hiru N. Patel Supersonic Wind Tunnel.
Hiru epitomises what it means to be an alumnus of a great university. His accomplishments, warmth and desire to give something back all speak to the power of an alumni community.
The advances we are making motivate alumni to be an integral part of our mission"
One of my greatest joys as President of Imperial is meeting so many wonderful alumni and friends throughout the world, and extolling the accomplishments of Imperial’s alumni: I tell people about our alumnus who founded drinks company Fever-Tree; I share with nurses and medics that the company behind the Crocs shoes that they wear on wards is led by another former student, and that the antibiotic Augmentin was developed by another.
I’m awed by the generous alumni whose philanthropy, including through regular giving and legacy gifts, help Imperial deliver important achievements, and by our talented academics and students who provide plenty of opportunities to make a difference. The advances we are making – whether in aeronautics, biomedical engineering or cancer research, at our School of Public Health, the Institute of Infection and The Invention Rooms – help motivate alumni to become an integral part of our mission.
The names Sir Michael Uren, David Dangoor, Marit Mohn, and Brahmal Vasudevan are among those behind transformative support for our research, teaching and outreach.
In our 2015 College Strategy, we highlighted the importance of our alumni community working with our staff and students to help humanity address global challenges. Since then, our alumni have stepped up to help bring the best students into our community, mentor students, advise our entrepreneurs and to support our global alumni group networks and other associations.
I’m proud of the tireless work of our Alumni Relations team, ably led by Nicola Pogson and her colleagues. They’ve managed an expanding range of services and benefits, such as the Alumni Visitor Centre and Imperial Plexus, to help our alumni connect.
Welcoming our alumni back to campus is a joy. The annual Alumni Weekend at the Great Exhibition Road Festival is a chance for former students to reconnect with their department, classmates and the College, and to celebrate exciting new developments in science, technology and the arts.
Our alumni never cease to amaze me. They lead in all their pursuits, from lifesaving medical care to artistic design and new frontiers of fintech. As I look over some of their inspirational stories in these pages, I am left more confident than ever that Imperial will remain critically important in the world.
The world faces unprecedented challenges but the Imperial community sees opportunity in challenge. We transformed an unused building into The Invention Rooms, a space to change the lives of children and adults in the White City community; and we launched the Mohn Centre for Children’s Health and Wellbeing and the Jameel Institute, to help deal with health crises. I am confident our entrepreneurial culture will deliver many more important innovations for the benefit of society.
It has been my privilege and absolute pleasure to serve for eight years as Imperial’s President. I will always have the utmost respect for, and pride in Imperial’s brilliant students, staff and alumni. And as I hand over to my esteemed successor, I look forward to watching our connections and relationships grow, as stellar new alumni cross the stage each year, joining all of us who can reflect with pride on our time at Imperial College London.
Professor Alice Gast is President of Imperial College London and is an internationally renowned academic leader and researcher.