George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, who died on 11 July 2011, was the first Chancellor of the University of York, from 1963 to 1967. Active in local and national musical and sporting life, and a significant local landowner, he played a key role in the early years of the University’s life and enjoyed a close working relationship with the first Vice-Chancellor, Lord James.
Lord Harewood consults Lord James at the first degree ceremony in 1966
Lord Harewood was active in fundraising for the University’s Music Department from its inception – his contacts leading to major benefactions for performance space and instruments. In the 1960s, he presided over the University’s first graduation ceremonies and escorted the Queen round the first buildings of the Heslington campus in 1965.
After stepping down as Chancellor, Lord Harewood remained involved and interested in the life and work of the University.
Lord Harewood devoted much of his life to opera, creating Opera North (the only full-time English opera company outside London), serving as editor of Opera Magazine, and writing a seminal guide to opera, Kobbe’s Complete Opera Book. He was also chairman of English National Opera in the 1970s and 1980s, 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.
The University’s connections with Lord Harewood in recent years covered a range of areas, each closely related to very personal interests of his. The Country House Partnership worked with Harewood House and other great houses of Yorkshire to explore the historical, conservation and sociological stories of these landmarks.
During an inventory of Harewood House, a number of documents relating to the slave-owning history of the Lascelles family were discovered. Lord Harewood deposited this archive in the University’s Borthwick Institute and gave his support to a major research project to conserve and investigate the papers.
He also donated his unique collection of broadcast recordings by the leading classical performers of the 20th century. This collection includes 1,500 acetates and reel-to-reel tapes of broadcast public performances. It includes 1940s performances Strauss’s Elektra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, the singer Victoria de los Angeles, and Sir Adrian Boult conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Lord Harewood said at the time: "I have always been interested in historic performance, which of course extends way back but also concerns what has until recently been the present. I often persuaded my technically more competent friends to record performances for me and have for years had them on tape and cassette.”
In 2003, Lord Harewood was guest of honour at a dinner in King’s Manor for the first cohort of students and staff, held to celebrate the University’s 40th anniversary. On his death in 2011, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Cantor, said: “Lord Harewood continued to be one of our most devoted friends and supporters and he will be much missed.”