‘Your letter of May 5, 1993 has touched me deeply. The supportive environment you have created for women enables them to reach their full potential, and Mai-mai Sze and I were delighted that we found through you and Lucy Cavendish that special place.’ A letter from Irene Sharaff to Dame Anne Warburton, 27 May, 1993.

Irene Sharaff and her partner Mai-mai Sze left an extraordinary legacy to Lucy Cavendish College. 

Based in New York, Irene Sharaff was an Ocsar-winning costume designer, whose credits include West Side Story and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Mai-mai Sze was a talented writer, artist and lecturer. Both women held a deep belief in the continuing advancement of educated women and, inspired by the work of our College outlined in a New York Times article in 1985, they began to correspond with our College President.

This correspondence eventually led to a generous legacy, which funded the build of our Music Pavilion, completed in 1995. It also led to the creation of two Research Fellowships; the Alice Tong Sze Fellowship for the humanities and the Lu Gwei-Djen Fellowship for the sciences.

Sadly, Irene and Mai-mai never visited Lucy Cavendish College during their lifetime. However, their headstones now lay beside the Pavilion, in a peaceful, sunny corner of the gardens.

‘Mai-mai and Irene were eternally curious – they treasured bits of knowledge of different cultures, of language, of styles and design, and of literature.’ Remarks of Jean Angell, made at the dedication of the Pavilion, June 1994.