Christ Church elects three new Honorary Students

Christ Church’s Governing Body has elected three new Honorary Students, as part of a tradition dating back to 1858. The newly-elected Honoraries are Professor Homi Bhabha, BA Bombay, MPhil DPhil Oxf, FBA, Professor Clare Philomena Grey, BA DPhil Oxf, FRS, and Dame Emma Natasha Walmsley, MA Oxf, DBE.

Professor Homi Bhabha, FBAProfessor Homi Bhabha, FBA, is an Indian English scholar and critical theorist. He is a highly important figure in contemporary post-colonial studies and has developed a number of neologisms and concepts in the field, including hybridity, mimicry, difference, and ambivalence. Born in India, Professor Bhabha graduated with a B.A. from Elphinstone College at the University of Mumbai and later obtained an M.A., M.Phil., and D.Phil. in English Literature at Christ Church. He is a recipient of the Humboldt Research Award and the Padma Bhushan Award. He is currently the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities at Harvard and was Founding Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard for over a decade.

Professor Clare Grey, FRSProfessor Clare Grey, FRS, is a multi-award-winning Professor of Chemistry, whose research specialises in applications of nuclear magnetic resonance and its use to study lithium ion batteries. Professor Grey received a B.A. in 1987 followed by a D.Phil. in 1991 in Chemistry at Christ Church. She is currently the Geoffrey Moorhouse Gibson and a Royal Society Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Dame Emma WalmsleyDame Emma Walmsley is the Chief Executive Officer of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). She was the first woman to become head of a major pharmaceutical company when she took the role in 2017 and in 2020 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to the pharmaceutical industry and business. Dame Emma studied Classics and Modern Languages at Christ Church and prior to GSK, she worked for L'Oréal in London, Paris, New York and Shanghai. She is a Non Executive Director of Microsoft and previously served on the Board of Diageo. In 2020(and 2018) Dame Emma topped Fortune Magazine's International list of the ‘Most Powerful Women in business’.

Christ Church’s Archivist, Judith Curthoys explains the history of the Studentship: “The tradition of election of ‘distinguished persons’ to Honorary Studentships began in 1858 when Christ Church’s first written constitution – The Ordinances – were ratified. And before this date, individuals had been given MAs of the House for centuries, often as a form of patronage.”

“In 1858, the Electoral Board elected ten alumni of the House as Honorary Students including William Gladstone, Henry Acland and John Ruskin.  A notable omission from the list was another Christ Church Prime Minister, Lord Derby.  Surely Christ Church could not still be smarting from Derby’s undergraduate destruction of the statue of Mercury in the middle of Tom Quad?” 

“In 1882, the number of Honorary Students was capped at 30 (excluding former Deans), and new Honoraries were traditionally only elected when there was a vacancy by death.”

Among the hundred or so who have held and are holding Honorary Studentships of Christ Church: are Harold Acton, author and collector; Robert Armstrong, Cabinet Secretary; Alfred Ayer, philosopher; Alec Douglas-Home and Anthony Eden, Prime Ministers; Richard Curtis, screenwriter; Adrian Boult, conductor; Ludovic Kennedy, journalist and broadcaster; Dick White, Head of both MI5 and MI6; and Jan Morris, author and travel writer.