‘Miss’ no hit with illustrious Queen Mary alumna

Inaccurate ‘begging letter’ incenses emeritus professor

November 28, 2013

Source: YouTube

‘Human error’: to blame for a letter addressing Professor David as ‘Miss’

There can be few people who have not felt a twinge of irritation when receiving an impersonal fundraising letter from an alma mater.

But this is nothing compared with the indignation felt by one emeritus professor addressed as “Miss” by the university where she gained her doctorate.

Miriam David, emeritus professor at the Institute of Education, University of London, last month received what she described as a “begging letter” from Queen Mary, University of London. She was so incensed by the title that she emailed Simon Gaskell, Queen Mary’s principal, to complain about the “extremely discourteous” missive.

“Since you have been able to track down my current home address, I would have expected you to be able to find out some more about your alumnae,” she writes.

Unfortunately for Queen Mary’s development office, Professor David has been well acquainted with the institution for at least four decades: she received her PhD from Queen Mary College, which later became the university, in 1974, her email explains. She adds that her PhD supervisor was Maurice Peston, who in 1965 founded Queen Mary’s economics department.

“I was a student contemporary of Dr Colette Bowe, a former Chair of your Council, and a colleague of Lady Elizabeth Vallance,” former head of Queen Mary’s politics department, Professor David writes.

She adds that she is also known to the university through her research; has met Professor Gaskell’s predecessor Sir Adrian Smith; and as chair of the Academy of Social Sciences’ council had had the “pleasure of bestowing” the title of academician on Philip Ogden, a senior adviser to Professor Gaskell.

She concludes: “I am surprised that you have the temerity to write to me in the way in which you have. You surely don’t expect me to support a college that does not recognise the achievements of some of its former doctoral students?”

A spokeswoman for Queen Mary said: “We appreciate how irritating it can be when you are addressed incorrectly and in no way was this meant to be a comment on Professor David’s many achievements.

“The letter itself wasn’t a request for money but indicated that Professor David would be contacted as part of our annual telephone campaign.”

The university would not contact the scholar further about the campaign, she added, but the director of development had written to her to apologise for the mistake, which was the result of “human error”.

Professor David received the apology as Times Higher Education went to press.


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Worried man wiping forehead
Two academics explain how to beat some of the typical anxieties associated with a doctoral degree
A group of flamingos and a Marabou stork

A right-wing philosopher in Texas tells John Gill how a minority of students can shut down debates and intimidate lecturers – and why he backs Trump

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy