University of Reading Marks Its 90th Anniversary

The University of Reading has marked its 90th anniversary this week.

The University was established by Royal Charter on 17 March 1926, becoming the 11th university in England and was the only UK university to be created between the two world wars. 

It is now one of the UK's leading research intensive institutions, with 17,000 students, from 150 countries with award-winning campuses in the UK, a stunning new state-of-the-art campus in Malaysia and Henley Business School Africa in Johannesburg. 

It the Royal Charter came after the University began life as the Schools of Art and Science which were established in Reading in 1860 and 1870 respectively. In 1892 University College, Reading was born as an extension college to Oxford University. 

A lunchtime celebration took place in the main quad on the Whiteknights campus in Reading, with the University Big Band providing entertainment, followed by the formal cutting of the anniversary cake and refreshments. 

A special meeting of the University Court took place in evening at the Great Hall, at the University's original London Road campus, led by Chancellor Sir John Madejski, with speeches by the Vice-Chancellor and reading by Oli Ratcliffe, President of Reading University Students' Union. 

The ceremony also saw the presentation of three honorary degrees to:

  • Helen Gordon, Chief Executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
  • Professor Haiyan Hu, President of Beijing Institute of Technology in China.
  • Andrew Palmer CMG, CVO, the great-great-grandson of George Palmer, proprietor of Huntley & Palmers, the biscuit manufacturer which have long-standing links with the University of Reading and bequeathed the University's London Road campus.

The ceremony also premiered a new film marking the 90th anniversary with current and past academics, students and staff setting out nine decades of history and achievement.

University of Reading Chancellor Sir John Madejski said:
"This historic event will be commemorated by our staff, students and graduates alike as we look forward to another 90 years of high quality education and world-changing research.

"Reading is already ranked firmly in the top 1% of universities worldwide, and its international reputation continues to grow. As we reflect on this milestone, we also celebrate the opening of a new overseas campus, providing UK degrees from our stunning new facility in Malaysia.

"I am proud to be involved with such a forward-thinking institution, and I look forward to seeing the University of Reading continue to go from strength to strength in the years ahead."

Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell said in his University Court speech: 

"The small community that was the University of Reading in March 1926 would not have dared to dream that their institution, a century later would be among the top 200 universities worldwide or anticipated that we would have campuses in Malaysia and South Africa, research and teaching partnerships the world over, as well as a truly international community of staff and students

"The University has always sought to be ahead of our time; breaking boundaries in science, the arts and humanities, and the social sciences. We have influenced developments in industry, commerce, civil society and within academia itself. We have sought to educate our students well - not just for a career but for a rewarding, fulfilling and meaningful life. 

"This work, and much more besides, has gone - in the words of our first Vice-Chancellor, William Macbride Childs - towards 'making a university'. That can never be, attributable to a single individual or even a small group. All of our staff, students, alumni and friends are partners in 'making' the University of Reading and doing all that we can to pass it on safely to future generations. 

"For all those that have gone before, we pay tribute to them and solemnly recognise our responsibility as stewards of their legacy. The 'making' of a university was not a moment fixed in time. It is a perpetual intellectual project and we take encouragement too from the knowledge that the generations to come will have new energy, passion commitment and insights to drive our university forward."

The ceremony at the University's Great Hall saw Helen Gordon, Chief Executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Professor Haiyan Hu, President of Beijing Institute of Technology in China and Andrew Palmer CMG CVO honoured.

Helen Gordon
With a career in healthcare spanning 33 years, Helen Gordon trained as a nurse before progressing through a number of clinical and managerial positions in hospitals including Chief Executive at Hillingdon Hospital and Queen Mary's Sidcup NHS Trust. Helen went on to become Chief Executive of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 2005 and joined the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in July 2010.

For the past eight years, Helen has contributed to higher education as a Governor at Ravensbourne College and has chaired the Alumni Relationship and Development Advisory Board at Henley Business School since its creation in 2013. Helen holds a master's degree in Business Administration from Henley Business School and was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of General Practitioners in November 2013.

Professor Haiyan Hu
Professor Haiyan Hu is a world renowned scientist in applied mechanics and became a Doctor of Engineering at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA) in China in 1988. His subsequent roles have included Humboldt Research Fellow at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, Visiting Professor at Duke University in the USA, Professor of Applied Mechanics at NUAA, and Vice-President and President of NUAA, successively.

Since 2007, Professor Hu has served as the President of Beijing Institute of Technology in China and has made recognised contributions to the dynamics and control of aerospace systems.

He has also authored and co-authored two monographs and 220 journal papers. In addition to this he received the State Award of Science and Technology Progress in 2005 and the State Award of Natural Science in 2006. He was elected Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2007 and Fellow of the World Academy of Sciences in 2010. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Moscow State University in Russia in 2015.

Andrew E Palmer CMG. CVO
Andrew Palmer is the great-great-grandson of George Palmer, proprietor of Huntley & Palmers, the biscuit manufacturers which have long-standing links with the University of Reading. Even now, several decades since the firm moved away from Reading, Andrew still serves as a member of the University Court, on the committee for the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) and as Chairman of the Friends of the University.

He is also Patron of the Palmer Society, the University's legacy society and a Visiting Fellow of the School of Politics, Economics and International Relations (SPEIR). Following his education at Cambridge University and after completing military service, Andrew served in HM Diplomatic aService for 34 years. During his service, his roles included Ambassador to Cuba, Private Secretary to the HRH the Duke of Kent, and Ambassador to the Holy See in Rome.

As well as being a member of the Council of the University of Reading until 2008, Andrew has also been a long-serving member of several committees and other council-related bodies. He has chaired joint committees on fundraising priorities and on the University's millennium celebrations and has been a member of the Development Board, as well as boards reviewing the Court and Halls of Residence.

Andrew was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in 1981 and a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1987. He is also an author and contributor of several published works.

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