Shirley Williams, Rt Hon Baroness Williams of Crosby CH PC (PPE, 1948), was among seven individuals who were honoured for their outstanding contribution to the arts, science and public life at Oxford University’s annual Encaenia ceremony on 21st June 2017.
Williams received an Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law for her distinguished career in both politics and academia. Elected as a Labour MP in 1964, she held a number of ministerial, shadow cabinet and cabinet roles, serving as Secretary of State for Education and Science in the Callaghan government.
In 1981, as the Labour party was becoming increasingly left wing, Baroness Williams joined with fellow senior Labour MPs Roy Jenkins, David Owen and Bill Rodgers (known collectively as the ‘Gang of Four’), to form the Social Democratic Party.
In the same year following a by-election, she became the country’s first SDP MP. Following a split in the SDP in 1987, the majority of its members voted in favour of a merger with the Liberals which became the foundation of the modern day Liberal Democrat party.
She has also been Professor of Elective Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She is an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College, Oxford, as well as an Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge and Professor Emerita at Harvard Kennedy School.
Encaenia is the ceremony at which the University of Oxford awards honorary degrees to distinguished men and women and commemorates its benefactors.
In celebration of this event there is a special display in the Somerville College library until next week.