Principal's Blog: 4th July 2023


JB stock photo to use Sept 2021Ezra Jackson

A pall of sadness has rested over the College over the last few weeks because of the death of Ezra Jackson. We have in this period of mourning welcomed the Jackson Family twice to College. There was a memorial for Ezra in chapel on 15 June conducted superbly by Rev David Sheen. Several students spoke movingly about Ezra and read poems dedicated to Ezra. I included a couple of passages from the Book of Ezra and said “The extraordinary tributes speak of a colourful strong presence, passionate, resilient, loyal, funny. Many of them pay tribute to their kindness and the plays acted in….So I suggest you can shed tears because they have gone or you can smile because they have lived; we are doing a bit of both at this Memorial”. The Vice Chancellor attended on behalf of the University. I also attended the funeral in Clapham on 23 June.


We were privileged to host Simon Schama in college when he came to receive an honorary degree from the University at Encaenia which took place on 21 June. What a glittering list of those honoured, including Lyce Doucet and Val McDermid. It is not widely known that Simon was a History Fellow at Brasenose before going to Harvard. Our wonderful Jonathan Katz as Public Orator delivered the tributes to all eight honorands in flawless Latin (with a little bit of Hebrew too) and then gave a wide ranging and well received Oration summarising the academic year (in flawless English) having been given permission by the Chancellor to speak in the vulgar language.


We said a fond farewell at High table on the Friday of Eighth Week to Prof Nicholas Purcell the Camden Professor of Ancient History and Prof Rowena Archer, our Supernumerary History Fellow. Of the former I said “His range in Ancient History is enormous, ranging from archaic Greece to late imperial Rome and beyond, and from the calendars of the Celts to the imperial customs posts for the spice and incense trade on the Red Sea.” He is best known for his work (jointly with Peregrine Horden) The Corrupting Sea; a study of Mediterranean history. About Prof Archer I described her “unparalleled care for the students, for the functioning of History teaching at the college, and for the wellbeing of her colleagues. Working alongside Rowena – particularly as we navigated through the difficulties presented by COVID – has been a real privilege and an education on what the model tutor should be like.” Prof Rowena has published on a wide variety of aspects of women’s lives making particular use of the work of the late fourteenth century Franco-Italian writer, Christine de Pisan and a study on the impact of the Anglo-French wars on women. She has a particular interest in Henry V and Agincourt. We wish them a happy retirement and hope to still see them regularly in College.  


We congratulate Henry Zeffman who is leaving The Times to join the BBC as the Chief Political Correspondent.

We also celebrate Dr Sasi Shanmugam Senga, a Neurosurgical Oncologist and Lecturer in Medicine, who has been granted the 'Future star in the world of cancer research' award from U.K. Research and Innovation. Sasi’s article was the top cited article of the year and as such received an accolade from the Royal Society.

I also congratulate the JCR for bringing Alpacas to Radcliffe Square in helping to ground people for the exam season.

Congratulations also to Diane Coyle (1978) who became a Dame, Andrew Churchill (1988) – for his OBE and Julia Nolan (1978) for her OBE, all bestowed in the King’s Birthday Honours List.


We went to the Ruskin on 16 June and it was a real pleasure to see such a range of styles on show. Our Brasenose students did us proud. Art show

Our Chapel was absolutely packed for the visit of Irene Tracey the Vice Chancellor on 5 June. There was also a wonderful Finalists Service on 12 June.

The new building at Frewin  is nearing completion and we are on track for handover on 28 June.

I wish everyone who takes it to have a wonderful vacation but am acutely alive to the fact that for many of our staff the work continues over the summer. We wish a fond farewell to students but we now turn to hosting commercial guests as we prepare for one of our busiest summer conference seasons ever.


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