May 3rd, 20146:55 am @


(The following is the first in what The North American Pembrokian plans as a series of articles written by North Americans describing their Pembroke experience. The editors welcome all submissions, though we reserve the right to edit them for length and content.  Please send your submission to Tom Herman,  Thank you.)

My Pembroke Experience – Through the Eyes of a Thirty-Something MBA from LA

By Adam Rubin, ‘07*

In early 2007, Pembroke, for me, was initially nothing more than a photo, an idea, a far away set of ancient buildings. I was an American former entrepreneur, LA guy, and film director, who had just been accepted to Oxford.  Oxford had not been on the bucket list – one of those things that just seemed too far out of reach for the average Joe.  Oxford was an institution that only the world’s elite got to experience.  I had never perceived myself as elite – a smart and artistically talented over-achiever perhaps, a guy with a really good artistic eye, and someone with an open mind, a sense of adventure, and an audacious streak.  And then I got in…

I arrived at Pembroke in early October of 2007 late at night, and was immediately taken aback by its timelessness.  I walked down Beef Lane with my roller bag dragging over cobblestones and  entered the college through the large front entrance at the foot of a tall Rapunzel-like tower.  I was greeted by a porter named Keith, perhaps the porter most likely to be cast in a Boris Karloff film.  Keith was actually a great guy, but on first glance resembled Svengali.  What the heck had I gotten myself into?  What was this Pembroke?

I climbed staircase A to the top, and much to my pleasure I discovered I would be spending the year in my ensuite bedroom at the top of the tower.  Right above the Samuel Johnson room.  This was now “my” tower.  I planned to lord over it from above – I was king of the castle.  This just might be an incredible year after all I thought.

Upon coming back down to earth, both literally and figuratively, I wandered through Pembroke’s moonlit courtyards later that night, alone, in silence.  I saw the chapel, the dining hall, Broadgates Hall, and was blown away.  The feeling of being a part of something special overwhelmed me.

Next day I wandered up to the MCR, and after ducking my head through the ancient doorway, entered into a caricature of what I’d always thought an Oxford lounge would look like.  Wood paneling, Scotch whiskey, and plush furniture.  I sized up the place immediately, and began to think about the possibilities…

Oh, the Pembroke possibilities…  I dove in head first. I rowed at Pembroke – a semi-novice with a short bit of experience from U Penn as a freshman rower, and was dropped into a boat with seven 18 year old Pembroke freshers.

An "Ancient" Among Eight

An “Ancient” Among Eight
“I was dropped into a boat with seven 18 year old Pembroke freshers… a thirty- something out with seven 18 years and their female counterparts from other colleges. Let’s just say I sipped my wine, while they chugged it.”

To them I was an eternal 25, as at that age, you’re either below 25 and young or over 25 and old. In my… mid-thirties… I was ancient.  There were some really funny experiences playing big brother to my boat-mates, while also keeping in shape.  This included crew dates for example…  A thirty something out with seven 18 years and their female counterparts from other colleges.  Let’s just say I sipped my wine, while they chugged it.

"LA Poker Night" in the MCR

Our famous “LA Poker Night” in the MCR

I started a weekly poker game on Wednesday nights, which I labeled appropriately… LA poker night.  One would think it would be a casual small game of poker – except it became the hit of the Said Business School and amongst my fellow Pembroke MCR members.  Picture a range of some of the world’s great up-and-coming minds all discovering Texas Hold ‘Em, hosted by most probably the least intelligent participant of them all.  We’re talking upwards of 50 – 60 people at a time.  Biologists, linguists, medics, you name it.  Not to mention the scores of Rhodes scholar phone calls I’d take asking to get in the game.  The world’s finest, and I and Pembroke were the hosts…  However, I’d created a monster.  By exposing all these great minds to Hold’em, by the end of the year, many had become better players than me. Oh, well…

Then there was my walk with Giles Henderson down to the Pembroke boat house to assess the state of its paint job or lack thereof.  As a former house painter (yes, I’d run a painting business during my post-undergraduate years) I couldn’t get over the state of the boathouse.  Here was Pembroke, this elite rowing college, with the most rundown-looking of boathouses.  Let’s not even discuss the bathroom there.  Pembroke’s boathouse reflected it’s “Pem broke” reputation and that irked me.  I was gonna find a way to paint the boat house myself.  I had a plan.  Giles approved it.  However, something called school work got in the way.  It’s still on my list of things to do – perhaps even on my bucket list…  Maybe there’s a painting fund ready to happen…

Adam Rubin '07

Adam Rubin ’07 in the Old Quad:
“I probably wore my tux 25 times in a year, the sconcing, the late night McCoy’s kebab dinners, the trips to the Trout Inn.”

And then, of course, there were the Pimms parties, the high table dinners — complete with post dinner candle-lit port and sherry drinks, the black tie banquets—I probably wore my tux 25 times in a year, the sconcing, the late night McCoy’s kebab dinners, the trips to the Trout Inn, the drunken late night bike rides with friends through Oxford, and of course the Pembrokians…

Given everything else, what truly made my Pembroke experience special were… the Pembrokians.  From day one there, whether we’re talking of fellow students, professors, porters – including Andy, Keith and others, Len – the barman, the venerable Master Giles Henderson and his wife, Owen Darbishire – my college supervisor, and all the other support staff, it was an incredible experience.

Pembroke was perfectly situated in the middle of everything, so it came to be a cross-roads for many of my Said classmates and my Pembroke friends.  Yes, of course, I got a fantastic and incredibly well-earned Oxford education, but living at Pembroke and taking advantage of all that Pembroke and Oxford had to offer was what made the year so special.

Looking back, several years later, I only have fond memories of my time there.  However, Pembroke still remains with me as I continue to enjoy a solid relationship with the college, celebrate its expansion, its athletic prowess, and its successes, while exploring new friendships with other alumni and continued relationships with those I met while there.  Pembroke was, and will be with me forever.


* Adam Rubin ‘07 is an entrepreneur and film producer who lives in Los Angeles. His recent short film, “A Perfect Day”, has won multiple awards and has screened in many festivals. It is distributed through Human Relations Media. On the business side, Adam is currently developing a new company called Saladshots (, which he claims “with our reinvention of dressings will have the same impact for salads as Ben and Jerry did by putting cookie dough in ice cream.”   Rubin and Saladshots were recently featured on ABC News

Adam received his MBA from Oxford and an MFA in directing from USC film school. He can be contacted at: