9 april 2013

Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013

University

Margaret Thatcher visits Somerville College
Margaret Thatcher unveils a portrait on a return visit to Somerville College

Baroness Thatcher, who died yesterday aged 87, studied Chemistry at Somerville College from 1943 to 1947. In her final year she specialised in X-ray crystallography under the supervision of Dorothy Hodgkin. She became President of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946.

Upon her death the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: 'As Britain's first female prime minister, and one of its longest serving, Baroness Thatcher ranks among the most prominent of Oxford's alumni. One of the foremost politicians of her age, historians will debate her legacy for decades to come; today we remember a graduate of the University who reached the highest public office and had a lasting impact on British politics and society.'

The Principal of Somerville College, Dr Alice Prochaska, said: 'It is with great sorrow that we have learned of the death of Margaret Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, this morning at the age of 87.

'Baroness Thatcher, then Margaret Hilda Roberts, arrived at Somerville College in 1943 to study Chemistry. Raised in modest circumstances above her father's shop in Grantham, the young Margaret impressed her teachers with her passion for scholarship. Her tutor at Somerville was Dorothy Hodgkin, to date the only British woman to have won the Nobel Prize for Science. Margaret's academic work was strong, and college records show that she was recommended for several grants and prizes, and an Exhibition. She also became President of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

'Since her graduation in 1947, Somerville continued to enjoy a warm relationship with Baroness Thatcher, awarding her with an Honorary Fellowship of the college in 1970. She maintained a particularly close friendship with our former Principal Daphne Park. It is largely thanks to the visionary fundraising activities of Baroness Park that the college was able to build its Margaret Thatcher Conference Centre, which was officially opened by her in 1991. Further successful fundraising campaigns led us to establish The Margaret Thatcher Fund, which now incorporates several exciting initiatives.

'Somerville College sets students from all backgrounds on paths to future success. We are immensely proud to have educated Britain’s first – and so far only – female Prime Minister and one of the most internationally significant statespeople of the twentieth century. On this sad day, we pay tribute to the truly pioneering spirit that propelled her to the pinnacle of British political, and public, life.'