Principal's Blog: 16th March 2023

JB stock photo to use Sept 2021Happy Easter to all my readers. I hope you have a great vacation.

New Honorary Fellows

At our Betty Morley Feast on 11 March we bestowed well deserved Honorary Fellowships on Sir Dieter Helm, Oxford Professor of Energy Policy and author of Net Zero , Simon Lewis OBE, the former Communications Director at Downing Street and Buckingham Palace and Tim Harford OBE, the economist, writer and radio presenter. All studied PPE which helps to redraw the balance with the lawyers!

Each of them paid tribute to their outstanding tutors. Otherwise, their speeches had rather different emphases. Dieter said he came to Brasenose from an Essex school and BNC represented everything he aspired to. Simon said that Michael Palin had told him that BNC was “like a railway waiting room; anyone can go”. He recalled that the only time he ever overslept was on the day of his first tutorial. Tim recalled that whilst Peter Sinclair was welcoming, John Foster could be quite stern and said that Tim had “performed as an orator but not as a thinker.”


Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard

I had a wonderful Principals Conversation on 1 March with Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard who studied Chemistry in Brasenose, matriculating in 1985. She has been the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor since July 2018 and is still also a Professor at the University of Auckland. Her academic research is in protein biochemistry, investigating protein-protein interactions and applied research in the food industry.

She described the extraordinary time she had during covid. The vaccination rate in New Zealand was over 90% and they had a successful test and trace regime. Juliet’s vision for her role centres around four qualities: rigour, inclusivity, transparency and accessibility.  She said that she aims to create a trusted bridge between science, society and government. She commented in particular on the very different timescales inherent in academic life and her public service. The recording is available on our website.

Simon Lewis

Simon Lewis our new Honorary Fellow spoke to a packed PPE Society event on 2 March. He referenced his time in communications for Vodafone, the Palace and Number 10 amongst others. This included the tense few days after the close election result of 2010 when Gordon Brown sought to put together a Rainbow Coalition but lost out to a BNC alum, David Cameron who had a deal with the Lib Dems. He was not sparing in his critique of the tabloid press. Many questions were asked about the toxicity of social media.

Victor Yuschenko

We hosted Victor Yushchenko, the former President of Ukraine, on 6 March. The Amersi Room was packed for his presentation to the OU International Relations society. Speaking through an interpreter, the President spoke of the 24 occasions on which Russia had invaded Ukraine to some extent and stressed the determination of the Ukrainian people to resist aggression. He pointed to the fact that in a recent poll 86% had said that they would fight even though Putin might deploy nuclear weapons. He also called for a 21st Century Version of the Marshall Plan for his country. Two days later Vlodymyr Vehner, our year long College visitor from the University of Kyiv, gave Fellows a fascinating insight to the legal issues posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Jessie Childs

Jessie Childs, who read history at BNC, is an award-winning author, historian and broadcaster. She visited for a joint Ashmole Society and Principal’s Conversation on 9 March. She is best known for her historical books, Henry VIII’s Last Victim: The Life And Times Of Henry Howard, Earl Of Surrey, and God’s Traitors: Terror And Faith In Elizabethan England. She mainly spoke about her latest work The Siege of Loyalty House which tells the story of the heroic resistance of a royalist mansion in the English Civil War. It was published to critical acclaim in May 2022 and was a Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Economist, Spectator, Prospect, Critic, New European, Daily Express and Mail on Sunday Book of the Year. This book even gets in a description of the role of Lincoln College!

In her talk, she certainly lived up to Hilary Mantel’s description of her as “a gifted narrative historian, eloquent, graceful and witty”. She told an audience of students, Fellows and alumni about how she decides what to write about and her research methods and her future projects.  

Football glory

On 25 February our College football team won the 1sts Cuppers Final, the first time Brasenose has done so since 2015. We beat St Hughs 1-0 in the final, with Inigo De La Joya as our scorer with a brilliant goal. It was a very tough battle, but we worked extremely hard and remained strong, and mentally knew how to hold on after our 4-3 win in extra-time against Jesus College, last year's winners, in the semi-final! 

This provided an excellent framing for the Sports Dinner to take place on 2 March. A packed hall heard each sports captain provide an interesting account of their sport. For example, the women’s football team was top of their league and promoted to division 1. The biggest cheer, however, was for the all conquering BNC team in croquet which Tom Mewes described as “the beautiful game”. No less than 3 of the 5 on the university committee come from BNC (who knew!) Several captains were wearing their football medals including the Football Captain Ezra Sharpe who emphasised the great period that BNC sport was going through. I want gently to correct one thing that was said, however, namely that our great sports alumni were dead. In fact our Olympic rower Andrew Lindsay is very much alive!

Frankland Visitor

Looking ahead, I am delighted to report that we have appointed as Frankland Visitor Jo Baring from Trinity 2023 to Hilary 2024 and thereafter Joanna Kavenna, from Trinity 2024 to Hilary 2025. Art historian Jo Baring is the Curator of the Ingram Collection of British Art some of which we have on show in the College. Amongst other things she will be rehanging that Collection. Joanna Kavenna is a well-knownnovelist, essayist and travel writer.

Finally, congratulations to our Senior Kurti Fellow Professor Russell Foster CBE FRS who has been appointed as the Special Adviser for the House of Lords Select Committee on light and air pollution and Alex Betts for his appearance on CNN on 13 March.

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