People

York's reputation is built on an ethos of excellence and we are indebted to all the staff and students who have worked and studied here. Here are just some of the many people who contributed to our success.

John West-Taylor

John West-Taylor

The University's first Registrar

John West-Taylor was a young Cambridge graduate when he was appointed Secretary to the Academic Development Committee of York Civic Trust in 1951, the body formed to plan and present the case for a university to be established in York. A keen supporter of the academic cause, his appointment marked the start of an association with the University which continued throughout its lengthy planning and development stages. He was appointed Secretary of the Academic Planning Board and then Registrar in 1961, a position he held for nearly 20 years. As registrar, he oversaw the development of the University as an academic community, the historic registration of the first students and the physical development of the site.

A knowledgeable lover of art and architecture, he read music and history at Trinity Hall, his studies being interrupted by war service for three years when he served as a pilot with the Fleet Air Arm.

He was awarded the OBE in 1975 and his contribution to establishment and development of the University of York was marked by the award of an honorary degree of Doctor in 1989. He died in 1991 aged 67 leaving his wife Catherine and a daughter and two sons.

Donald Barron

Sir Donald Barron

Former Chairman of the University Council

Sir Donald Barron served as Treasurer of the York Academic Trust, the group that campaigned successfully for the University of York to be established. Educated at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh and Edinburgh University, he served as Chairman of Rowntree Mackintosh from 1966 to 1981 and Chairman of the Midland Bank retiring in 1987 at the age of 66. He was also chairman of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and served as Treasurer and then Chairman of the University Council for a number of years during the 1980s. He was a member of the University Grants Committee from 1972 to 1981. Sir Donald’s contribution to the University was marked by the award of an honorary doctorate in 1986.

Chancellors

Lord Harewood

Lord Harewood

Chancellor from 1963 to 1967

George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, was the University’s first Chancellor and played a key role in its early years. During his time in post, he oversaw the opening of the University in the autumn of 1963 when the first 230 students were admitted. He presided over the University’s opening graduation ceremonies and escorted the Queen round the first buildings of the Heslington campus in 1965. Born in 1923, Lord Harewood was educated at Kings College, Cambridge before being commissioned into the Grenadier Guards. He fought in Algeria and Italy and after being injured and captured, was held as a prisoner of war at Colditz.  A music enthusiast, Lord Harewood devoted most of his career to opera serving as editor of Opera magazine and Director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He was also chairman of English National Opera and a governor of the BBC in the 1980s. His other great passion was Leeds United Football Club, which he served as president from 1961 until his death in July 2011. Even after stepping down as Chancellor, Lord Harewood remained closely involved and interested in the life and work of the University and proved a generous benefactor of historical archives and music recordings. He donated papers relating to the slave-owning history of the Lascelles family, uncovered during an inventory of Harewood House, to the Borthwick Institute, along with a unique collection of broadcast recordings by leading classical music performers of the 20th century.

Lord Kenneth Clark

Lord Kenneth Clark

Chancellor from 1967 to 1978

Lord Clark was a British author, museum director, broadcaster and a seminal art historian writing a series of books that combined scholarly insight with wide public appeal. He was writer, producer and presenter of the celebrated BBC TV art history series Civilisation which pioneered a style of documentary series combining personal narration by a leading expert with lavish photography and shooting on location. Kenneth McKenzie Clark was born in 1903 in London to a wealthy Scottish family. Educated at Oxford, he went on to work in Florence for two years with Bernard Berenson, one of the most influential arts critics of the time. He worked as fine arts curator at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum before being appointed director of the National Gallery at the age of 30, the youngster person ever to hold the post. He was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford and was a founding board member and Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain when he had a major role in the art programme of the Festival of Britain. Lord Clark was appointed Chancellor at York in 1967 and on his retirement in 1978, he presented two major works by Sidney Nolan, one of Australia’s best known painters and print makers. Lord Clark was made a life peer in 1969. 

Lord Swann

Lord Swann

Chancellor from 1979 to 1990

Lord Swann, former Governor and Chairman of the BBC, served as Chancellor at the University of York for over ten years until his death in 1990 aged 70. Born Michael Meredith Swann, he studied at Cambridge where he went on to lecture in zoology after war service with the British Army. During a distinguished scientific career, he carried out research on cell physiology and fertilisation, nearly all the work being done on the eggs of sea-urchins. He was appointed professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh in 1952 before serving an eight-year term as Principal and Vice-Chancellor. He oversaw rapid expansion at Edinburgh coupled with a spell of student unrest led by Gordon Brown who had been elected Rector. Lord Swann was chairman of the BBC from 1973 to 1980 before being appointed Provost at Oriel College in Oxford. During the eighties he undertook many public duties including Chairmanship of the Committee on the Education of Children from Ethnic Minorities. In the House of Lords, he sat on the cross benches and worked tirelessly in support of higher education. He was knighted in 1972 and made a life peer, becoming Lord Swann, in 1981.

Dame Janet Baker

Dame Janet Baker

Chancellor from 1991 to 2004

Dame Janet Baker is one of the most celebrated musicians Britain has ever produced. The mezzo-soprano opera, concert and lieder singer enjoyed a successful international career performing with some of the world’s leading opera companies and orchestras before retiring from the stage in 1984 and the concert platform in 1989. Born in Hatfield in South Yorkshire, her father was an engineer who sang in a male voice choir and members of her family worked at Bentley pit in Doncaster. She was educated at York College for Girls and Wintringham Girl’s Grammar School in Grimsby. She made her stage debut with the Oxford University Opera Club in 1956 going on to win national attention later that year when she came second in the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Competition. Her Covent Garden debut came in 1966 and she went on to win growing admiration as a highly expressive artist with audiences around the world before her final performance  at Glyndebourne in 1982. Dame Janet was awarded an OBE in 1970 and a DBE in 1976. In 1994 she became a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour and is a Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University in 1984 and served as Chancellor from 1991 to 2004. As well as carrying out official duties, she visited the Department of Music whenever she could to give vocal master classes to students.

Greg Dyke

Greg Dyke

Chancellor from 2004 to present

Greg Dyke, former Director-General of the BBC, has been Chancellor of the University of York since 2004. A former student at York, he graduated with a degree in Politics in 1974 and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University in 1999 for his contribution to industry and to public services. He admits that his time on campus changed his life and he has always been grateful to the University for admitting him as a mature student with only one grade E ‘A’ level. Before taking up a place at York, Greg Dyke worked as a newspaper journalist and after graduation, began a long television career with London Weekend Television working as a producer, senior editor and Director of Programmes before rising to Managing Director, then Group Chief Executive in 1991. As Chairman/Chief Executive of Pearson Television from 1994, he built the largest independent production company outside the US and was the first Chairman of Channel 5. He took over as Director-General of the BBC from John Birt in 2000. His achievements included the launch of four new digital television stations, five new digital radio stations and the introduction of Freeview. He left the BBC in January 2004 in controversial circumstances after the publication of the Hutton Report. As a result, groups of BBC staff staged walk outs and paid for a full page newspaper advert expressing dismay over his departure. He published “Greg Dyke: Inside Story” in 2004, is Chairman of Brentford Football Club and is a Fellow of the Royal Television Society and the National Film and Television School.

Your nominations

We encouraged the York community of staff, retired staff, friends, alumni and students to contribute to helping us identify people who made a significant contribution to the University.

This has resulted in a diverse range of nominees who have contributed in many different ways to the overall success of the University.

We are now contacting everyone who has been nominated to ask for their permission to include them in a major online and campus-based exhibition which will be launched in June 2014 as part of the York Festival of Ideas and the 2014 Alumni Reunion weekend.

Thank you to everyone who made a nomination.