Gina Wilson

The College lost one of its oldest friends with the death of Gina Wilson on Sunday 4 February.

Gina Wilson (or Gina Huskinson, as she was then) was appointed as Kellogg College’s first College Secretary in 1990 and worked with Dr Geoffrey Thomas and other colleagues to realise the vision of an Oxford college based around the needs of part-time and mature students. The College made her an Honorary Visiting Fellow in recognition of her extraordinary skills and her infectious enthusiasm.

Gina was born in New York State on 3 November 1939. She was raised in Maryland and educated at the University of Pennsylvania. She came to England in the early 1960s to work as an advertising copywriter, and settled here for the rest of her life. In Oxford, and later in Cheltenham, she worked with her husband John in the business of trading in historical manuscripts. She was married to John for twenty years.

In Cheltenham Gina was an energetic supporter of a number of arts charities. She was a trustee of the Holst Birthplace Museum, Chairman of the Friends of Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, and latterly a trustee of the Cheltenham Music Festival Society.

The funeral was held privately at Widford, near Burford, Oxfordshire. There was also a celebration of her life in the form of a concert held in her honour at the Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham.

At the Celebration for Gina, attended by many Kellogg Fellows, Geoffrey Thomas, Founding President of the College, paid tribute to Gina’s crucial contributions to the early years of the College. These included her responsibilities, as the first College Secretary, for helping ensure that the University’s procedures were adapted to meet the needs of part-time mature students – the first such students to be matriculated in the University’s eight-hundred-year history. This involved cajoling and generally persuading University administrators that the necessary changes could be made. For the early cohorts of Kellogg students, in Education, English Local History, and Software Engineering, Gina was the first point of contact with the College, and they have been ready in their tributes to her resourcefulness, the warmth of her welcome, her can-do attitude and her overall efficiency. Navlika Ramjee, first President of the MCR, remembered how Gina determined that the two of them should study the photographs of all incoming students, so that when they first came to the College they could be greeted by their first names.

“Gina was,” Geoffrey Thomas continued, “a marvellous all-round team player – a quintessential “college person”, who helped set the pattern for social gatherings, and contributed hugely to establishing “traditions”. When it came to adopting College colours, the discussions culminated in Gina marching me down to Messrs Shephard and Woodward where she persuaded the manager to lay out all the college ties then existing in Oxford. To our great relief and delight, we discovered that our first choice of colours, royal blue and white, had not been spoken for, which prompted Gina to order the first few hundred ties for fellows and students.

“Perhaps because of her Ivy League background, Gina became one of the proudest cheerleaders for the new young college as it sought to establish itself amongst its august peers. She was enthusiastic and irrepressible in this and all other activities she turned her hand to. She was also great fun and brought style and colour to our otherwise possibly drab academic milieu. Her professionalism was crucial, her company always a delight, and her friendship a privilege. Such was the affection and regard in which Gina was held in the College, that when she left she was immediately and unanimously elected to an Honorary Visiting Fellowship – the first person to be recognised in this way. Truly a friend to celebrate.”