"As a family we gained a lot from Imperial."
With four of their five children having graduated from Imperial, alumnus Chris Bommer and his wife Aileen consider their family to have gained “more than most” from the College.
The Bommer family’s unique connection to Imperial stretches back to 1963, when Chris decided to take a year out from work to study for a postgraduate qualification in Concrete Structures and Technology.
After graduating from his first degree in 1956, Chris worked in a variety of roles, before accepting a position in Nigeria, where he met Aileen, then secretary to the Nigerian Minister of Education. “We got on well as she was a bit of a natural engineer,” says Chris. “She carried spanners and screwdrivers in her handbag and used to maintain her own motorbikes.” After two years in Africa, the couple returned to the UK to marry.
Chris took a year out from work in 1963 to study at Imperial for a postgraduate qualification in Concrete Structures and Technology, winning a bursary from the College after a “technical grilling” from the then head of department. Like Chris, many of his classmates already had industry experience, which he says made for an interesting exchange with the lecturers, who tended to take a more academic perspective. It was at Imperial that Chris discovered a life-long passion for scuba diving. He remained an active member of the Sub Aqua Club for many years after graduating, volunteering his time to help organise diving trips around the UK and Spain. In 1968 Chris and a fellow alumnus founded the Imperial Octopush Team (often know as underwater hockey), which continues to make a splash in national competitions to this day.
Chris and Aileen share their passion for science and engineering with their children, four of whom followed in Chris’s footsteps and studied in the Faculty of Engineering at Imperial. “The children took their A-levels in their stride and gained places at Imperial with various scholarships and awards,” says Chris. “Julian and Paul did Civil Engineering and Caroline and Philip did Mechanical Engineering.” Although putting five children through university meant that finances were sometimes tight, Chris and Aileen wanted the children to be able to make the most of their years at Imperial. Aileen explains: “We weren’t that well off in those days, so each of the children had one year living at home and one year in halls. We didn’t want them to miss out of the experience of living in halls.”
As the family celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Chris’s graduation from Imperial, what was it that motivated Chris and Aileen to so give so generously in support of scholarships at Imperial? “As a family we gained a lot from Imperial,” explains Chris. “We have benefitted not only from the qualifications, but also from the prestige and reputation of the College. All of us have fond memories of our time at Imperial where we enjoyed the wide variety of interests available outside our courses. We feel we owe more than most families and are happy to give something back.”
In recognition of their generous support for the President’s Scholarship Fund, Chris and Aileen Bommer were this year welcomed as members of the Imperial 1851 Circle, a distinguished group of donors whose contribution will help to secure Imperial’s future as a leader in learning, innovation and research.