Skip to content

Minster launch for University of York 50th Anniversary celebrations

Posted on 28 November 2012

A major event at York Minster next February, incorporating performances by the University Choir and Orchestra and the conferral of five honorary degrees, will launch a year-long calendar of events to mark the University of York's 50th Anniversary year.

50 years of changing the world

To mark its first half-century, the University will confer honorary doctorates on David Hockney and four other people who have made outstanding contributions to York and Yorkshire in the last half century.

David Hockney will attend the event on 12 February 2013 and will join Janet Barnes, Chief Executive Officer of York Museums Trust; Robert Brech, the Chairman of York Science Park; John David, Master Mason of York Minster and Dianne Swiers, Deputy Chief Nurse Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust in receiving 50th Anniversary honorary degrees.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Cantor, said: “The University of York is extremely proud of its relationship with this great city and its people. We are starting our 50th anniversary celebrations by formally acknowledging that relationship through this exciting public event in York Minster at which we will confer honorary degrees on five people who have made significant contributions to the advancement of York and Yorkshire.

“The University’s success is directly attributable to the hard work and dedication of our founding staff, those pioneering students who chose to come to York in the early 1960s and to all of those who have worked here and supported us since then. We are also enormously grateful for the wide-ranging support of the city of York and its people. We hope very much that many of them will be part of our celebration on 12 February and throughout our anniversary year.”

The celebration event will include performances of Bruckner, Parry and Vaughan Williams by the staff, students and alumni of the University’s Department of Music. Music marking the Anniversary, composed specially by Dr Richard Shephard, Director of the York Minster Fund and an honorary graduate of the University, will be performed for the first time at the celebration.

Janet Barnes

Janet Barnes is Chief Executive of the York Museums Trust and has been a museum and art gallery professional for over 29 years. Previously Director of the Crafts Council, Janet Barnes has also worked at Sheffield Galleries and Museums. During her time at Sheffield, she opened the Ruskin Gallery and Ruskin Craft Gallery, which housed the educational collection of John Ruskin. She is currently a Director of the Guild of St George and initiated the successful Campaign for Drawing. She has been Regional Chair of Arts Council England since 2004. She has played a major part in positioning York as a world class cultural centre. Janet Barnes has driven the major £2.2 million project to refurbish the Yorkshire Museum and has won large scale funding from the Arts Council to refurbish the York Art Gallery in 2013. In the last year she has overseen York’s museums and galleries welcoming 641,160 visitors compared with 531,135 in the previous year, representing a 21 per cent increase.

Dr Robert Brech

Robert Brech, who was educated at Downside School and Magdalen College, Oxford, has a background of running businesses in the medical, semi-conductor and precision engineering industries. He worked for Vickers plc from 1971–1988, becoming Managing Director of Vickers Medical in Hampshire, before transferring to the position of Managing Director of Vickers Instruments in York. He master-minded a successful business turn-around as Managing Director of Cambridge Instruments, but came back to Yorkshire to run a venture-capital backed company, Johnson Radley in Leeds. He then took up a number of non-executive chairman roles, as well as taking positions in the charity and voluntary sectors. Under his leadership, York Science Park has become one of the most successful in the North, hosting around 100 high-tech companies and spearheading the provision of new employment in the city. Dr Brech was a member of the University Council for six years in the 1980s-90s and again from 2000-2011, and was a Pro-Chancellor from 2006-11. Locally, he chairs the Parish Council in his home village of Alne, near York, is Treasurer of a number of charities, and is a keen member of the York and Hovingham tennis circuits.

John David

John David is a Master Mason of international repute, who has pioneered the training and practice of stonemasonry at York Minster for over 20 years. As Master Mason, he oversees the work of the stoneyard in the Minster Works Department. His team is responsible for the maintenance, repair, conservation and restoration of the fabric and grounds of York Minster and the surrounding properties of the Cathedral Close. John David is playing a leading role in the training and conservation of the East Front, which forms part of the £10 million 'York Minster Revealed' project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. John David has established an internationally-recognised centre for excellence in training apprentices in traditional stonemasonry and stone conservation techniques. He plays a leading role in the Cathedral Stonemasonry Apprenticeship scheme and throughout his time at York Minster, he has worked closely with the University’s departments of Archaeology and History of Art. His unrivalled knowledge and professional experience has benefitted generations of craftspeople and students.

David Hockney

David Hockney was born in Bradford and graduated from the Bradford School of Art in 1957, receiving the Gold Medal at the Royal College of Art in 1962. He was awarded the Order of the Companion of Honour in June 1997, and the Order of Merit in 2012. David Hockney has received honorary degrees from institutions including the University of Oxford in 1995, Yale University in 2005 and the University of Cambridge in 2007.  His 2001 publication, Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters received critical acclaim and has been published in over 12 languages. David Hockney has an international reputation in the field of painting, drawing, printmaking, photography and opera design. His work has been seen around the world in gallery and museum exhibitions. His latest, David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, which focuses on the artist’s landscape paintings and multi-camera films, has shown at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and Museum Ludwig, Cologne.

Dianne Swiers

Dianne Swiers has dedicated her career to the service of NHS staff and patients in Yorkshire. Following her nurse training, she has risen through the ranks to be Deputy Chief Nurse Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust. She has played a key role in the Trust’s merger with York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, leading the integration of nursing and midwifery across both organisations.  Dianne Swiers has made a major contribution to the quality of professional education and training at the University of York. She has consistently championed the cause of University-based education for nurses and midwives, actively supporting and promoting programmes provided by the Department of Health Sciences at York. A member of the Department’s Strategic Partnership Group, which provides guidance on all aspects of nurse education, she has also played an active role in the development of Nursing and Midwifery curricula, including the new undergraduate degree in nursing at York whose first intake was in October 2011.

Notes to editors:

  • Admission by free ticket only, available at:
  • The University of York is one of the success stories in UK higher education. Since 1963, the University of York has powered its way to a consistently leading position nationally and internationally. Its reputation is built on an ethos of academic excellence and equal opportunity and advancement for all. Two recent international league tables ranking Universities less than 50 years old placed York at number 1 in the UK and number 6 in the world. More information at
  • More information about York Minster at

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153

Keep up to date

 Subscribe to news feeds

 Follow us on Twitter