History of the Gibbs Fellowship

The Gibbs Fellowship was founded in 1970 from a gift made by Miss Eileen Gibbs in her own name and in that of her late sister Phyllis.

Phyllis came up to Newnham in 1918 to read History, and Eileen in 1919 to read Natural Sciences. Phyllis’s studies were curtailed by ill-health, but she returned home to St Albans and threw herself into public service locally with great enthusiasm, serving as a city councillor and school governor, and as a Magistrate. Eileen worked as a conservationist, with a number of national and international agencies, and travelled to many parts of the world for her work. She was also a keen gardener, and was involved in many activities at home in St Albans.

Eileen and Phyllis lived together in St Albans in the house they had grown up in, neither married, and after Phyllis’ death Eileen lived there alone for the rest of her life. Both sisters had enjoyed travelling in connection with research and Eileen wanted to give others the opportunity to do the same thing, which she has done very successfully through her endowment of the Gibbs Fellowship. The subjects eligible for the Fellowship are those which interested the two sisters, Archaeology and Biology, and the related subjects of Social Anthropology and Sociology.

Fellows were invited to tea at St Albans and Eileen took great pleasure in attending the annual Gibbs Dinner, having a tour of the College gardens and hearing about each new Fellow’s work. She loved to receive postcards from Fellows on their travels resulting in cards with research updates reaching her from many far-flung places. The research projects supported by the Fellowship have involved travel to most parts of the world, and investigation of a large range of topics.

Catherine Hills/Claire Berryman, 2009