The Cambridge Society of Belgium
The Cambridge Society itself was founded in Cambridge in 1976. It exists to spread information about the University, and amongst other things keeps those with an interest in the University in touch with it and with each other through a number of Branch societies in the UK and throughout the world.
Links between Cambridge University and Belgium have always been strong -much stronger than is often realised, and this is natural given the geographical proximity, and the historical links in the fields of Law, Medicine, and other academic subjects since the time of Erasmus, and inevitably in commerce, shipping, banking and industry.
The Cambridge Society of Belgium was founded on 28th January 1994. It draws its Membership from amongst the 4001500 Cambridge alumni who are at anyone time resident in Belgium. These tend to be professionals in the fields of law, medicine, politics, diplomacy and business, many of whom are Belgian. The Society does not advertise, and relies on knowledge of its existence to be spread by word of mouth. The Society has no political or commercial aims, and does not act as fundraiser for the University.
It arranges a number of events each year which enable the Members and their families and friends to pursue common interests. It provides a means for people new to Brussels to make acquaintances. Many of these events are arranged in conjunction with the sister Oxford Society, which has a similar relationship with Belgium, and whose numbers and membership are similar in every way, and a few are arranged with other alumni organisations for example Yale, Harvard and Columbia.
A highlight of each year is the Annual Dinner, generally held in January in the splendid premises of the Club du Premier Regiment des Guides. This is open to members and their immediate families, and normally has a Chief Guest and speaker from the University, provided by our parent Cambridge Society. Recent past speakers have included: The Mistress of Girton Dr. Julia Campbell; The Vice Chancellor Prof R. Williams; Dr Sandra Raban - Member of the Governing Council, Sir John Gray, ex-Ambassador to Belgium, David Colvin, Ambassador to Belgium and Prof David Yates, the Warden of Robinson College.
An annual cocktail in June enables Members to meet each other socially and bring along families and friends and potential new Members. A limited number of other activities enable those who wish to do so meet each other outside a professional environment. Innovations have been an annual Croquet match against Oxford, golf matches and visits to private gardens.
Of continuing interest to members have been the Speaker Evenings, generally organised in collaboration with the Oxford Society. In the recent past Speakers have included:
- Prof Bill Nuttall - Professor of Energy, Cambridge and the Open University
- Prof Ross Anderson, FRS -- Head of the Cyber-crime Unit at Cambridge University
- Dr Dirk Frimout - Our First Belgian Astronaut
- Mr. Jonathan Faull - Spokesman for the European Commission
- Prof Mark Janse -- Professor of Linguistics at the University of Ghent
- Dr Ricardo Borges De Castro -- Adviser on Strategic Foresight to the EPSC
- Prof A. Silberston - London Economics Imperial College
- Prof John Kay - Oxford University School of Management Studies
- Lord David Williamson - Secretary General of the EU Commission
- Sir John Gulden - UK Ambassador to NATO
- Dr. Jamie Shea - NATO Spokesman, later Secretary General of NATO
- Sir Paul Lever - UK Ambassador to Germany
- Lord Robin Butler - Secretary to the British Cabinet
- Richard Corbett - MEP
- Dr Anne Lonsdale - President of New Hall and Pro-Vice Chancellor
- Dr Paul Cornish - Cambridge Institute for International Relations
- Dr Hans Wim - Director of De Beers and Curator, the Diamond Museum of Antwerp
- Sir Nigel Sheinwald - UK Permanent Representative to the EU
- Dr Barbara Emerson - St Hildas' Oxford, "History of Afghanistan"
- Mr. John Mogg - Director General for the Internal Market, The EU Commission
- Prof Godefroid de Calatay - Oriental Institute, the University of Louvain
- Sir Bryan Nicholson GBE - Chairman of BUPA
These Speaker evenings normally take place mid-week, in a location in Brussels convenient for all, and in the early evening (18.30-20.30). They are informal in character with the Chatham House Rule applied (strictly off-the-record occasions), thus enabling our speakers to be more revealing than they might be in a more public environment. The Society maintains an active website, www.camsoc.be and an informal Facebook group.
To support all these activities, there is a modest annual subscription. Most events are free of charge, with the exception of the annual dinner.
G.J. Fletcher, CHAIRMAN
L.M.A. de Vleeschauwer, HON. TREASURER
Stuart Anderson - Jesus 1961
William Seddon-Brown - Peterhouse 1959
Andrew Tank - Queens' 1976
Rupert Carter - Gonville and Caius 1986