In 2018, the President of the Students’ Union, Zoe Garshong, asked me if the University could consider creating a way of acknowledging the amazing contribution of the SU senior leadership team, perhaps through a memorial in one of the squares on our Colchester Campus, or in some other way. Almost immediately after the idea was raised, the work on the project was paused because of the COVID pandemic and subsequently managing our bounce back. However, in first part of 2023, the University and SU returned to the idea and started to explore how this could be done.

There were a number of challenges: what form the memorial should take, where it might be located, the budget available, and the feasibility of collecting all the names of student leaders over nearly 60 years. We eventually settled on a ‘Wall of Fame’ between Squares 2 and 3 — close to the heart of the Colchester Campus and in a high footfall location where their names and the contribution they made could not be missed.

Five Students' Union leaders for 2023-24 smile in front of the Wall of Fame. Each plaque on the wall bears the names of leaders of the SU for an historical year.

Steve Haugh has created a wonderful design based on the strapline ‘University of Essex: Powered by Students Since 1964’ with a plaque for each year’s student leadership team, with an alternating white, black, and yellow colour scheme. The SU team have done a wonderful job in gathering the names of student leaders across the decades and, where we have a few gaps remaining, we are asking our staff and our alumni community to help. Chris Lewes led on the installation, which was a bit more complicated than we had initially thought, and the project was coordinated by Lucy Birch from the Office of the Vice-Chancellor.

The Wall of Fame is part of a range of initiatives to make our campuses not just places of work, but environments where we can celebrate our people, community, and values. The role the Students’ Union plays through their relationship with the University has shaped the community we are today, and both the University and the Students’ Union will be celebrating 60 years of making change happen. The Wall will be formally opened in August 2024, with details shared nearer the time.