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News > Foundation Archive News > Celebrating 52 Wonderful Years: Alex Darkes’ Retirement Interview

Celebrating 52 Wonderful Years: Alex Darkes’ Retirement Interview

Archivist, Jo Wong interviewed Mr Princethorpe, Alex Darkes, shortly before he retired.

After his incredible track record of 52 years at Princethorpe, Alex Darkes – in true teacher style – set us all a challenge. He didn’t want a fuss made over his retirement, he said; he was happier just heading off quietly.

What to do? Of course we were going to respect his decision, but at the same time it was unimaginable that we could let the occasion pass without celebrating his wonderful career and contribution to the Foundation – not to mention the huge amount of affection for him across the whole Princethorpe community.

So brains started ticking, furtive conversations took place and plans were hatched. As you will already have seen, the naming of the Alex Darkes Physics Laboratory provided a very fitting celebration both of his teaching years, during which he had inspired so many budding scientists, and of his central role in developing the new Science Centre. It also came as a wonderful surprise to Alex, thanks to some cunning cover-up work by all involved!

Knowing Alex’s love of the College’s history and his encyclopaedic knowledge of all things Princethorpe, we were also very keen to record an interview with him so that we could add his memories to our oral history archives. By inviting students and staff both past and present to submit questions for the interview, I hoped that we could provide a fun trip down memory lane for Alex, as well as enabling the whole Princethorpe community to share in this occasion with him. And we had a fantastic response, with questions and well wishes sent in by Princethorpians from every decade – it certainly was a tricky task to make the final selection!

As the day of the interview drew nearer, I have to admit that the responsibility of interviewing a true Princethorpe legend on behalf of the whole community did start to sink in slightly. But I needn’t have worried – Alex was of course the perfect interviewee, and it was a real pleasure to be able to put so many of your wonderful questions to him. All messages that were sent in were also forwarded to Alex after the interview, and he was delighted to read all your kind words.

The interview recording can be found at and we hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it! Thank you so much to everyone who sent in questions, messages and memories for us to share with Alex – and of course to all of you for helping us to keep the plans top secret until the day.

Following his retirement, Alex has kindly agreed to take on the voluntary role of Archivist Emeritus, and I very much hope we will have the chance to chat about some more of his wonderful Princethorpe memories before too long – watch this space!

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