Farewell Michael and Roswitha!

Michael and Roswitha Spence, who have been at the heart of Emerson for almost half a century, are leaving to live with their daughter in Australia.

Michael’s superb history, The Story of Emerson College, is a must-read account of the genesis and formative years of the college but it is also a story of the Spences and their huge contribution to the creation of this special place. Michael, who was bursar and company secretary from 1967-94, always felt that he had one of the most interesting of all the positions in the college. In one way or another he was involved in, or carried, some responsibility in all areas of work except the teaching (although he did also come to do an increasing amount of teaching). From the beginning Michael tried to ensure that the administrative forms and structures, particularly in the financial and legal arrangements between the college, the students and the staff were as true a reflection in practice of the spiritual truths taught in the classroom and which came to expression in the Festivals. Michael made a deep study of, and also later taught, what Steiner showed to be the threefold nature of social life, particularly in the sphere of money and economics.   

When the Spences first came to Emerson in March 1967, the college had just bought the property of Pixton. Roswitha found that her earliest tasks were to buy furniture, sew curtains and find lodging for all the students during the busy summer of that year while Michael oversaw all the building alterations needed to turn a private home into a college campus as well as the general move of the college from its previous home in the ‘huts’ in Kidbrooke Park.

During the following years Roswitha became part of the Foundation Year team and was asked to teach all manner of arts and crafts. Chief among these was to create (and teach how to make) costumes, scenery and lighting for the many Shakespeare plays and Christmas plays that the students performed each year. Fortunately, Roswitha has left us an invaluable manual of the practical and professional experience she brought to these productions in her book, Clothing the Play – the Art and Craft of Stage Design. Later still, Roswitha’s subjects included dress-making, the art of Batik, form drawing and puppetry.

This brief account barely touches the surface of all that the Spences have contributed to Emerson and to the lives of the generations of students that have passed through the college. Thank you, Michael and Roswitha, and bless you for all that you have brought to us. Even though you will now be living in Australia, we will always feel close to you and so grateful for who you are and what you have achieved.

Jeremy Smith

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