Derwent College was one of the two original colleges opened by the Queen on 22 October 1965. The college was named after the nearby River Derwent. The original design of the college aimed to create an integrated academic community of staff and students. Staff flats and student bedrooms (originally almost all twin rooms) were located together in large residential blocks around a nucleus of social and academic spaces.
Much has changed in the past 45 years. The well has gone, few staff live on campus, and the college has grown with the addition of E & F blocks and Eden's Court. However, the success of the original design in facilitating sociability and a sense of community is still evident. The large residential blocks foster extensive social networks, while the Dining Hall remains at the heart of college identity and the best event venue on campus.
The ethos and character of the college owes much to its past provosts. The college was initially led by Professor Harry Rée (Educational Studies), who espoused a simple philosophy: treat everyone like adults and respect your neighbour. When he decided to return to secondary teaching in 1974 he was succeeded by Dr Michael Green (Chemistry) and then in 1980 by Dr Ron Weir (Economics).
During his 29 years as Provost Ron continued the tradition that Derwent was run "more on common sense than rules" and "the only rule is respect each other." Based on these principles, and considerable good humour, Ron annually moulded hundreds of individuals into a single community. As one alumni expressed it “…what Ron wanted the Derwent experience to be [was] not about being cool, or being academically the best, or about carving your own niche, but about being part of the most wonderful sort of family” (Tom Dowler, English, 1998-2001).
Ron's untimely death in 2009 has left a hole at the heart of the college, but he also left a great legacy that is worth preserving.