It is a great honour to have been elected President of Wolfson. The college is one of the most distinctive in Oxford: a graduate college, exceptionally international in both make-up and outlook; a college born in the 1960s, committed to egalitarianism; and a college which over the last ten years has made extraordinary strides towards an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge, based on the insight that great academics think and react across disciplines rather than in silos.
Oxford’s future and reputation will rest on its ability to do these three things ever better: be more international, more representative, and more interdisciplinary. I hope I can help Wolfson lead that way.
I come from a background of international relations, having served as a professional diplomat for the last 35 years. At its best, that has meant helping change the world for the better, be it in Somalia, Japan or Pakistan. At its most frustrating, that has meant feeling what W.B. Yeats described as “the struggle of a fly in marmalade”! But what it has led me to understand is that the best practical action is that based on proper reflection; and the best reflection is based on some experience of practical action. So I hope I may bring to this position a commitment to making connections between what might be called those who understand and those who do.
We have an extraordinarily diverse body of fellows, researchers and students, who seem to me both committed to our college and committed to their discipline. The achievements of former President Hermione Lee are here for all to see, both in our buildings and in our outlook; and I pay tribute to Philomen Probert who has been an exceptionally active and warm-hearted Acting President. I look forward to collaborating with everyone associated with the college, working with the grain of the special character of Wolfson. Thank you all for your warm welcome.
Wolfson College President
Highlights of Tim's inauguration below. Photography John Cairns.