Oxford chancellor named Commencement speaker
Observer Staff Report | Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Christopher Patten, Lord Patten of Barnes, chancellor of the University of Oxford and chair of the BBC Trust, will be the 2014 Commencement speaker, according to a University press release. Patten will speak and receive an honorary degree on May 18 at the University’s 169th Commencement.
“Chris Patten’s global experiences and expertise — from higher education, to government service to the broadcast media — are remarkable and sure to resonate with our graduates,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said. “We have had the honor of hosting him on our campus in the past, and we are so pleased that he has accepted our invitation to return and address the class of 2014.”
Patten, who was bestowed the title of baron in 2005, was elected chancellor of Oxford in 2003, and previously served as chancellor of Newcastle University. Queen Elizabeth appointed Patten in 2011 as chair of the BBC Trust, the governing body of the British Broadcasting Corp.
Patten graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, where he studied history. He began his career in the Conservative Party’s research department, first as a desk officer and then as director. He was elected as a Member of Parliament for Bath in 1979 and served for 27 years as minister for overseas development in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and in the Cabinet as secretary of state for the environment.
In July 2002, he was named the 28th and final governor of Hong Kong until its handover to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. In 1998 he chaired the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland for one year, set up under the Good Friday Peace Agreement, and from 1999 to 2004, was one of the United Kingdom’s two members to the European Commission.
“One of Britain’s and world’s preeminent Catholics, Lord Patten was called upon by his government to help resolve some of the most daunting issues on the world stage, including his masterful governance of Hong Kong’s transition from British to Chinese rule, and his groundbreaking reforms of policing in Northern Ireland,” Jenkins said. “Many thought impossible the preservation of Hong Kong’s prosperity in the face of communism, just as others deemed unattainable police reform in a society so long divided by sectarian prejudice and violence.
“Lord Patten proved the doubters wrong.”
In 2010, the prime minister tapped Patten to direct the preparations for Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United Kingdom, the country’s first papal visit in almost 20 years. He has been recognized as one of Britain’s most influential Catholics.