Peterhouse appoints their first female, LGBT+ Master
Peterhouse finds itself hurled into the 21st century
Peterhouse, Cambridge’s oldest and most crusty college, has appointed its first female Master, Bridget Kendall.
Founded in 1284, it has only taken them 732 years to elect their first leader of the opposite sex, who also happens to be LGBT+.
Peterhouse has a long-standing reputation for being a right-wing college, notorious for its exclusive and luxurious White Tie May Ball. Peterhouse was also the penultimate college to admit women, in 1985, trailed behind by the only other college to have a White Tie May Ball, Magdalene.
Kendall is a BBC journalist, having worked as the foreign correspondent in Moscow during the fall of the Soviet Union, as well as the BBC reporter in Washington from 1994.
Highlights of her journalistic career include her interviews with Vladimir Putin, King Abdullah of Jordan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Kendall released a statement on the Peterhouse website, saying “I feel very privileged to have been chosen by the Fellows of Peterhouse to be their next Master. This is an exceptional College with a distinguished history and record of academic excellence. It represents all that is best about Cambridge University.”
The departing Master, Adrian Dixon, has been the supreme leader of the College since 2008. He previously had a very successful career in medicine, specialising in Radiology.
Dixon celebrated the election of Kendall, saying “This is a great day in the evolving history of Peterhouse. Bridget will bring to the College her exceptional skills in communication and knowledge of international affairs. She also provides an outstanding role model for students and young academics alike.”
Kendall has big shoes to fill, as the kindness of the departing Dixon was celebrated by Peterhouse students. Finn McRedmond, a classicist third-year told The Tab, “Our outgoing master will be sorely missed. He drove a couple of us to an exam last year because we were going to be late otherwise! He was always super lovely and willing to learn about and help out all his students. He’ll be missed but I am also very excited about the prospect of a female LGBT+ Master.”
There are currently 9 female heads, out of the 31 separate Colleges.
- Dame Athene Donald- Churchill
- Mary Fowler- Darwin
- Dame Fiona Claire Reynolds- Emmanuel
- Nicola Padfield- Fitzwilliam
- Susan Jane Smith- Girton
- Dame Barbara Stocking- Murray Edwards
- Dame Carol Black- Newnham
- Dame Jean Olwen Thomas- St. Catharine’s College
- Jackie Ashley- Lucy Cavendish
As a point of comparison, Oxford also boasts 9 female “Heads of Houses” out of the 38 different colleges.
Kendall joins the rank of other ex-behemoths of the journalism world-turned-College Masters. The Selwyn Master, Roger Mosey, used to hold the title of Editor of Today on BBC Radio 4, and Head of BBC TV News. In addition, Jackie Ashley, a columnist and political interviewer for The Guardian took the helm at Lucy Cavendish in 2015.
Following the news, The Tab spoke to the newly appointed LGBT+ rep Julian Sutcliffe, who expressed his excitement “to see the historic election of an LGBT+ woman, and hope this will do a lot to help change the college’s reputation as conservative and stuck in the past”.
The news comes after Peterhouse failed to fly the LGBT+ flag yesterday. However, this was reportedly not an indication of being stuck in the past, but a blunder by the departing LGBT+ Officer, who forgot to ask the college to fly the flag. Sutcliffe has stated that he is now engaging in efforts to get the college to fly the flag at the end of this month.
This news comes after the recent appointment of Chris Smith as Master of Pembroke, the first MP to come out in office. Smith has been keen to show support for the LGBT+ community within the college, even hosting LGBT+ drinks last week.
Jon Cooper, Pembroke’s JPC LGBT+ Officer told his college’s blog, “It’s the influence of people like our Master who have allowed LGBT+ people to play the important role they do at our top universities and in public life today.”
It’s almost as if Kendall’s been calling. We’re excited to have you here, Bridget.