Care home resident donates centenary birthday money to university

Two women pictured with a giant cheque

Avril Powell, of Cavell Court, Cringleford, marked her 100th birthday by presenting her former college with a donation of nearly £2,000 - Credit: CARE UK

A Norwich care home resident and former Oxford University student has marked her centenary year by making a special donation.

Avril Powell, of Cavell Court, on Dragonfly Lane, Cringleford, marked the impressive milestone when she virtually presented St Hugh's College at the University of Oxford with a donation of almost £2,000. 

Born in Exeter in 1921, she was one of two children. After leaving school, she went on to study classics at the college during the Second World War. 

While studying, her father’s tailor shop in Exeter was bombed and she felt she had to return home and give up her much-loved studies. But her family encouraged her to stay, and St Hugh's College offered to fund her studies so that she could complete the remainder of her degree. 

She said she has many fond memories of her time at Oxford and after graduating, she worked as a teacher at Sherbourne School for Girls.  

She married her husband, Ray, the editor of Victoria County History, in 1942 and went on to have four children, Anne, Frances, Nicky, and Ted.  

She later worked on the Medieval Latin Dictionary, and also at the Public Record Office.  

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Incredibly grateful for the generosity of the college, and the opportunities university gave her, it was Mrs Powell’s wish for her friends and family to make donations to the college in lieu of gifts for her 100th birthday. 

She described feeling “delighted” by being able to raise £1,930 in total. 

She said: “I couldn’t believe how much money I raised for the college for my 100th birthday, and it was a fantastic surprise to be able to thank the college personally for the way it has shaped my life. 

“It feels wonderful to have reached 100, and to be able to spend it with my family after the last year was the icing on the cake.”  

Going one step further, the team at Cavell Court organised a surprise virtual meeting with the principal of St Hugh's, the Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini, on Mrs Powell’s birthday so that she could make the donation in person and share her own memories of St Hugh's. 

Founded in 1886, St Hugh’s is now one of the largest colleges at the University of Oxford with around 800 students.

It is located on a 14.5-acre site on St Margaret's Road, to the north of the city centre, and was founded in 1886 by Elizabeth Wordsworth as a women's college. It accepted its first male students in its centenary year in 1986.

Dame Angiolini has also recently been appointed as chair of Reprieve’s board of trustees - a legal action non-profit organisation of international lawyers and investigators who defend marginalised people facing human rights abuses.

Karen Curle, manager at the Care UK home, said Mrs Powell's request was something very dear to her heart.

She added: “Avril always speaks so fondly of her time at St Hugh's College, and so it was no surprise when she asked her family to donate to them instead of buying her a birthday gift. 

“Here at Cavell Court, we always strive to make an occasion of birthdays, whether that’s baking a big birthday cake or organising activities that are really special to individual residents.  

“From decorating the home to hearing about Avril’s time at Oxford, we certainly marked the occasion in style.” 

Mrs Powell, who turned 100 on April 26, is now a proud grandmother and great-grandmother to six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, who she loves spending time with.