Former Government Minister, ex-director of NatWest and former leader of some of the UK’s biggest companies – these are just a few of the credentials held by Lord Myners of Truro, the University of Exeter’s new Chancellor.
The announcement comes after almost a year of student speculation, following Baroness Floella Benjamin’s confirmation that she would be stepping down in March last year after 10 years in the role.
The 67 year-old former City Minister (2008-2010), who has been described as a “a City grandee [with] a genuine instinct for social justice“, will take over the ceremonial role in June, presiding over future graduation ceremonies.
Having grown up with adoptive parents in Truro, Cornwall, Lord Myners has since enjoyed an illustrious career in the business world, acting as Chairman of household name companies including Marks & Spencer, the Guardian Media Group and Land Securities.
Although he has maintained close ties with the financial sector since 1974, he has also served in a number of third sector posts, including Chairman of the Low Pay Commission, Chairman of the Trustees of the Tate – a position held during a period of change between 2004 and 2008 – and trustee at the National Gallery and Royal Academy Trust.
In 2008, he was appointed City Minister under Gordon Brown’s Labour government, and later joined the House of Lords, where he is currently a cross-bench member of the House.
This new appointment to Chancellor isn’t his only link to the University, however. In 2003, he was granted an honorary Doctorate of Laws.
Given his “highly influential” position on the “national and international stage”, Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Steve Smith, described Lord Myners as “a perfect fit for Exeter”.
President of FXU (Falmouth and Exeter Students Union), Grace Fisher, also expressed her delight at the choice: “To be able to welcome a Cornishman as the new Chancellor holds great significance for Cornwall-based students.”
Current student reactions have been less enthusiastic, however, with Lord Myners’ ability to replace Baroness Benjamin’s “legendary” graduation hugs called into question.
Michael Sole, a final-year English and French student, told Exeposé: “It seems that he has had a very successful career, but I’m not convinced that he will be able to match the warmth and energy that Floella brought as Chancellor – along with her hugs.
“I think Floella is somewhat irreplaceable and her successor inevitably has some very big shoes to fill.”
Other students had more serious concerns, with one “disappointed” fourth-year History and International Relations student berating the addition of “another white 60-something man” to the University’s Executive Group.
Echoing these remarks, a Humanities finalist added: “I don’t doubt [Lord Myners’] capacity to lead as Chancellor for one moment, but do question Exeter’s lack of commitment to ensuring a diverse and representative senior management team.”
Despite such feedback, one fourth-year Modern Languages student maintained that “Baron Myners’ background in various sectors will make him an interesting and engaging Chancellor”.
Lord Myners will be the sixth person to take on the role of Chancellor at the University of Exeter since it received its Royal Charter in 1955.