A new term and a new VC

Newly appointed Professor Sir Christopher Snowden is the tenth Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton. Just as the University is the successor to the Hartley Institution, Hartley College and University College, Professor Snowden and the other VCs are also successors to the ten Principals who led and governed the earlier institutions.

Recently a portrait of our former VC Professor Don Nutbeam was completed and is due to be unveiled in the Senate Room in Building 37, where it will join those of his predecessors, the earliest being that of Sir Robert Wood.

Portrait of Sir Robert Wood, Principal (1946-52) and Vice Chancellor (1952)

Portrait of Sir Robert Wood, Principal (1946-52) and Vice Chancellor (1952)

Wood became Principal of the University College, Southampton, in 1946. He led the University College to full university status in 1952, becoming its first Vice Chancellor when Southampton was granted its Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth II in 1952.

Dr David Gwilym James, a Professor of English at the University of Bristol, succeeded as Vice Chancellor in October 1952, remaining in post until 1965. It was under his Vice Chancellorship that the transformation of the University began, with expansion of student numbers and an ambitious building programme transforming the Highfield and other university sites. The Parkes Library on Jewish/non-Jewish relations was accepted by the University in 1964 and this has become one of the core collections of Hartley Library Special Collections and a factor in the development of the extensive Anglo-Jewish Archives at Southampton.

The development of the University continued with the appointment of Kenneth Mather, who was VC from 1965 to 1971. His background was a geneticist and botanist and he established a new medical school for the University. Amongst the holdings of the Special Collections are those of Dr Donald Acheson, who was the first professor of medicine at the University (MS 353).

Lawrence Cecil Bartlett (Jim) Gower was VC for the 1970s. One key achievement of his term was with regard to student accommodation which was increased by 32 per cent. Gower also served on Harold Wilson’s Royal Commission on the Press for which the Special Collections hold papers (MS 105).

The University has had a long association with the Dukes of Wellington. From 1902 to 1907, the fourth Duke was President of the University College; his grandson, the seventh Duke, followed in his footsteps from 1949 to 1952 and was subsequently appointed the first Chancellor of the new University, the fruition of a campaign supported by his family for a University of Wessex. The University has continued to maintain strong links with this illustrious Hampshire family. It is therefore fitting that under the tenure of the eminent historian, Professor John Roberts, the University’s fifth VC (1979-85), Southampton became the home of the archive of the first Duke of Wellington (MS 61) when the collection was allocated to the University under the national heritage legislation.

Portrait of Professor John Roberts, Vice Chancellor (1979-85)

Portrait of Professor John Roberts, Vice Chancellor (1979-85)

Sir Gordon Higginson, who had been a Professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Durham, succeeded John Roberts as VC in 1985. He remained in post for nearly a decade. Sir Gordon played a key role in advancing the University’s development within Southampton and it was during his time that the University acquired the site that is now Avenue Campus. He also oversaw the development of a series of key research centres, including the Southampton Oceanography Centre. The Broadlands Archives (MS 62), which include third Viscount Palmerston and Earl Mountbatten of Burma, arrived at the University during this period.

Sir Howard Newby, VC 1994-2001, was at the helm when an expanded University moved into the new millennium with a number of institutions, including Winchester School of Art, becoming part of the University and a masterplan for development of the Highfield campus was established, with new buildings designed to enhance the entrance to the campus along Burgess Road and University Road.

Professor Sir William Wakeham, VC 2001-9, was a chemical engineer by training. As VC, he played a leading role in regional affairs, chairing SEEDA’s South East Science, Engineering and Technology Advisory Committee (SESETAC), and was an active member of the board of the Southampton Strategic Partnership. It was during these years that the University emphasised its role as one of the UK’s leading research universities and among the top 100 in the world. In autumn 2004 the Hartley Library completed a two-year building project that included a new Special Collections Gallery, providing for the first time facilities to exhibit the Special Collections.

Professor Don Nutbeam’s arrival as VC in 2009 marked a personal return to Southampton. A world-renowned expert in public health, he had completed his postgraduate education at the University in the 1980s. It was during Professor Nutbeam’s tenure that the redevelopment of the Boldrewood Campus took place. In 2010, the University completed a successful fund-raising campaign to secure for Southampton, and for the nation, the Broadlands Archives. As Professor Nutbeam noted: “The Broadlands Archives … have a special place here in Hampshire – and at the University of Southampton – because of the strong local links with Lord Palmerston and Lord Mountbatten.”

The arrival of Professor Snowden, formerly Vice Chancellor of the University of Surrey, on 1 October 2015 marks the start of a new phase as the University’s global reputation for research, education and enterprise continues to rise and it welcomes the largest intake of students in its history.


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