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Lord Butterworth of Warwick, 1918-2003: Vice-Chancellor of the University of Warwick

Lord Butterworth

Lord Butterworth

Originally Published 09 June 2003

The University of Warwick has learnt with deep regret of the death on 18 June of its first Vice-Chancellor Lord ‘Jack’ Butterworth. In its short history, Warwick has risen to become one of the UK’s leading universities with an outstanding record of innovation and achievement – a position due in no small measure to Lord Butterworth’s leadership during its formative years. ‘The reputation of Warwick today as a strong, research–led university owes much to Jack Butterworth’s vision nearly forty years ago,’ says Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart Palmer.

Jack Butterworth was appointed Vice-Chancellor to the new University of Warwick – then a green field site on the edge of Coventry – in 1963. His background was legal, academic and administrative: he was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 1947 and was a Fellow of New College, Oxford from 1946 to 1963 (Bursar from 1956 to 1963), and a member of Oxford’s Hebdomadal Council from 1953 to 1963. A man of enormous energy and vision, he immediately set about organising Warwick’s academic and financial foundations. Working closely with the University’s Chancellor-Designate, Lord Rootes, he ensured that Warwick’s Foundation Appeal raised more that that of any other of the new 1960s’ universities – a total of £2.875 million by 1968 – around £30.7 million at today’s prices. His radical approach to academic staffing – he handpicked outstanding scholars in the different academic disciplines and gave them the opportunity to create and shape their own departments – created Warwick’s distinctive academic landscape.

Jack Butterworth’s vision was of a University based on research-led teaching and service to the community – values that remain the cornerstone of Warwick’s mission today. It is due to his inspiration that Warwick Arts Centre was built in the 1970s and 80s: he visited the Hopkins Centre at Dartmouth College in the USA in 1964 and saw at first hand the opportunities a campus based arts centre could offer to both the academic and the local community. He also had the foresight to realise that the University needed to establish close links with industry and the business community – a revolutionary idea at the time but one that is now widely emulated across the higher education sector. One of the most successful of Warwick’s industrial partnerships is the Warwick Manufacturing Group, established in 1980. Professor Sir Kumar Bhattacharyya, Director of WMG, comments: ‘I was particularly lucky to have Jack as my mentor in the early days of the Warwick Manufacturing Group. There is no doubt that Jack put a huge imprint on the institution enabling it to develop at a rate and in a way that has been quite staggering in such a short time.’

After his retirement in 1985, Lord Butterworth remained an active supporter of the University and we were delighted that he was able to attend the installation of the Chancellor, Sir Nick Scheele, last October. Our thoughts at present are with his wife, Doris, who was a tremendous supporter of all his work at the University, and with his family. We hope that they, like us, will regard the success of the University of Warwick as a fitting tribute to his life.