My week - 8 July 2013 - Benefactors’ weekend, International Medieval Congress and the Staff Festival

A regular update from Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Arthur.

Professor Michael Arthur

Some of our staunchest supporters were welcomed to campus last weekend as they joined us for a series of events celebrating the contribution that alumni and benefactors have made, and continue to make, to the University’s success.  As well as receiving progress reports on the Making a World of Difference campaign projects, nearly 50 guests attended a Benefactors’ Dinner and ceremony to welcome three founding members of the Court of Benefactors: Lord Laidlaw, the Clothworkers Foundation, and Peter Cheney.  The Court of Benefactors recognises donors whose exceptional generosity gives them a special place in the University’s philanthropic history and I was delighted to be there at its inception.  It was an extremely successful weekend, which gave us the opportunity to thank our donors and also deepen our relationship with them.

During the same weekend, hundreds of visitors began to arrive for the 20th International Medieval Congress (IMC) – but this was the first time that this internationally-renowned conference has been held on our central campus. Organised by Axel Müller and a team from our Institute for Medieval Studies, the IMC 2013 attracted over 1,800 delegates from around 50 countries, delivering some 1,400 papers – a world-class event indeed.  It was marvellous to see so many people on campus, enjoying  the events and facilities on offer.  Medievalists can be a thirsty group – we were told that over the 20 years they have consumed some 18,000 gallons of Congress Ale!

I was honoured to attend the opening event and also an evening reception at which the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Tom Murray, welcomed congress delegates to Leeds.  With campus as its new, permanent home, the Congress looks set to make a valuable contribution to the intellectual, cultural and commercial life of the city for many years to come.

It is 100 years since Sir William Henry Bragg (WH) and his son William Lawrence Bragg (WL) developed the technique of X-ray crystallography during research carried out at the University.  As part of the centenary celebrations, this week Pro-Chancellor Linda Pollard and I, together with staff from Physics and elsewhere in the University, visited the village of Cloughton, near Scarborough.  The Braggs spent their summer holiday here in 1912, discussing the recent discovery of X-ray photography, before going back to Leeds to start their ground-breaking X-ray crystallography work.  We were there to watch Charles Bragg, a direct descendant, unveil a blue plaque on a house called Whin Brow, where the Braggs stayed.  He gave an excellent talk recounting family memories of his grandfather (WL) and great grandfather (WH)) and their great contribution to science.  The blue plaque was just one in a number of centenary events taking place which are involving colleagues from across the University.  My congratulations and thanks also to Chris Hammond (emeritus senior lecturer), who not only did all the groundwork for this event, including tracking down the house and gaining permission from the current owner, but he also mounted the plaque to the wall and spoke quite brilliantly about the history of the house and the Braggs.

It was good to round off an extremely hectic week – which also included my last Leeds Senate, a Russell Group Internationalisation ‘roundtable’ with David Willetts, an engagement event with the Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council, Professor Duncan Wingham, and the Leeds Annual Statistical Research Workshop – with a visit to the Staff Festival. Summer finally arrived and, with the sun shining on campus, it really was a great occasion with something for everyone to enjoy.  My congratulations and thanks to all those who helped organise or contribute to the Festival – it was a splendid event.


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