Farewell to our Warden, Ken Macdonald QC

5th August 2021

News, Student news, Alumni news

A series of events celebrating the Wardenship of Ken Macdonald QC, 2012 to 2021, culminated with the unveiling of a plaque in his honour and dinner in Hall.

Garden party

College staff joined the Warden for a garden party in the Fellows’ Private Garden where Ken was presented with gifts and Fellow and Tutor in History, Professor Jane Garnett made a moving speech

“Ken has had a very strong sense of the distinctive interplay of continuity and change, and of the importance of the work of building community afresh each day,” she said.

“Modelling his own belief in the progressive and open character of which Wadham is proud, he has galvanised others - across the whole College community - students, non-academic and academic staff, alumni - to enact it and to feel involved.  Building community requires effort and care - it doesn’t just happen.  Ken has manifested this commitment in making lots of individual connections.  The early risers will have encountered him with cup of coffee in hand walking round the front quad, or going to the upper terrace of the Bowra building to look at the new building coming into life.  Attendees at Wadstock or the College symposium have been grateful for his participation later in the day.  Ken has curated public discussion about human rights; has got to know alumni who disseminate far and wide the values of the College; has made time for everyone.  This approach underpins his holistic understanding of the creative and supportive role of the Warden, which he has played so well.”  

Jane congratulated Ken on spearheading the Access to Excellence programme, managing the University Prevent agenda, and achieving the construction of the two major interconnected buildings on the College site - the William Doo Undergraduate Centre and the Dr Lee Shau Kee Building - and the Dorothy Wadham building on the Iffley Road. 

“We are deeply grateful to him, and will miss him very much.”  

  • The Warden accepts a picture from the College

    Ken Macdonald QC accepts a picture of the view from the Warden's Lodgings by Librarian, Tim Kirtley

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  • Jane Garnett

    Dr Jane Garnett

  • The Warden
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Music Exchange

At a special Music Exchange in the Holywell Music Room, a number of College members played or presented pieces of music selected especially for the Warden. The event culminated in the world premiere of “Ken’s Song” performed live by Tamara Parsons-Baker, musician and Executive Assistant to the Warden.

  • Performers at the music exchange
  • Performers at the music exchange
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Macdonald Terrace unveiling

Foundation Fellows gathered for the unveiling of a plaque on the newly named Macdonald Terrace, next to the new Undergraduate Centre. Alasdair Locke (History and Economics, 1971) spoke of the Warden’s many achievements and the esteem in which he is held, thanking him for the transformative work he has done on behalf of the College.

Play Guests at the plaque unveiling
  • Plaque unveiling, Wadham College

    Foundation Fellow Alasdair Locke unveils the plaque for Warden, Ken Macdonald QC.

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  • Guests at the plaque unveiling
  • The plaque

    Macdonald Terrace plaque

  • Guests at the plaque unveiling
  • Guests at the plaque unveiling
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  • Guests at the plaque unveiling
  • The Warden with his family

    The Warden with his family

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  • Guests at the plaque unveiling

Farewell dinner in Hall

Sub-Warden, Carolin Duttlinger spoke of the strong links Ken has forged with students over the years, taking their concerns very seriously. She outlined his support for the proposal, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of women admitted to Wadham, to commission some new portraits to make our collection more diverse and representative. In Hall, we now have five portraits of women fellows and alumni by photographer Michael Birt, and all around the College there are many more portraits of women and people of colour.

“But ultimately, of course, pictures and buildings don’t really matter; what matters are the people who live and work here. Our new buildings embody the College’s commitment to academic excellence, to fair access and widening participation both nationally and globally. These projects were only possible because of the extraordinary generosity of our benefactors, and Ken has been untiring in fostering and deepening the College’s links to our alumni community, together with Julie and her team,” said Carolin.

“The College has thrived, grown and evolved under Ken’s wardenship, and while this success is of course a collective achievement, carried by fellows, staff, students, and alumni, it has happened under his leadership…he’s helped to propel the College forward, enabling us to formulate a vision for the twenty-first century on which we will continue to build.”

She added that Ken has affirmed the College as an academic community, stressing the importance of open-mindedness, dialogue, and mutual respect, particularly in these divided times.

“Above all, what Ken has conveyed to students over the years is a sense of agency, that they should dare to think big and have bold ambitions, and that, surely, is the most important thing we can give to our students with an Oxford education.”

Commenting on the pandemic Carolin said that Wadham came together in the crisis, coming through with very low infection rates and a high degree of compliance with the difficult rules that had to be imposed.

“During this time, we’ve felt very lucky to be under Ken’s calm but decisive leadership and his readiness to make, and take responsibility for, some very difficult decisions. They say you only truly know someone once you’ve climbed a high mountain with them, and the same is true for people during the pandemic. Ken has really shown his mettle in these hardest of times, and his outstanding leadership will be remembered by the College with enormous gratitude for many years to come.”

Robert Hannigan will be joining the College as Warden from the beginning of September 2021.

  • Dinner in Hall to celebrate Ken Macdonald's Wardenship

    Dinner in Hall to celebrate the Wardenship of Ken Macdonald QC

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