Following the arrival of Dame Shirley Pearce as the new Chair of the Court of Governors, LSE Archivist Sue Donnelly provides a history of her predecessors.
Sidney Webb, Chair 1901-1911
Sidney Webb (1859-1947), one of the School’s founders, was the first Chairman of the Court of Governors after the School joined the University of London. He took a particular interest in the work of the Library and combined his role at LSE with research and writing, serving as MP for Seaham (1922-1929) and as a member of the House of Lords. He was a minister in both the first and second Labour governments in 1924 and 1929.
Russell Rea, Chair 1911-1916
Russell Rea (1846-1916) founded his ship owning and merchant company R and J H Rea in Liverpool in the 1890s. He was elected Liberal MP for Gloucester in 1900 and after losing his seat in January 1910 was elected for South Shields in a by-election. A supporter of free trade he became a Junior Lord of the Treasury in 1915 but died of heart failure in 1916. His Times obituary praised his business capacity, breadth of view and sound judgment.
Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland, Chair 1916-1935
Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland (1876-1935)was a Conservative with a keen interest in social issues, served as an Assistant Commissioner to the Poor Law Commission. He was Conservative MP for East Birmingham and Chairman of the Conservative Party. He was Chairman of the Court of Governors at LSE for much of William Beveridge’s time as Director.
Josiah Stamp, first Baron Stamp, Chair 1935-1941
Stamp (1880-1941) entered the Inland Revenue as a boy clerk at the age of 16 and steadily climbed through the ranks. After obtaining a BSc (Econ) through the University of London external degree system Stamp gained a DSc in 1916. In 1919 Stamp left the civil service to work in business and in 1928 became a director of the Bank of England. Stamp became an LSE governor in 1925, taking over from Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland as Chair in 1935. He was appointed chief economic adviser on economic co-ordination at the start of World War II. Stamp died in an air raid on his home at Shortlands on 16 April 1941 and is remembered on the LSE War Memorial.
Sir Otto Niemeyer, Chair 1941-1957
Educated at Balliol College, Oxford, Niemeyer (1883-1971) won first place in the 1906 civil service examinations beating J M Keynes. He joined the Treasury and by 1920 was Controller of Finance advising the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1927 he resigned from the Treasury to join the Bank of England. Niemeyer was Chairman of the LSE Court of Governors from 1941 to 1957 and remained a Governor until 1965.
Edward Bridges, first Lord Bridges, Chair 1957-1968
Edward Bridges (1892-1969) was the son of the poet laureate Robert Bridges and studied at Magdalen College, Oxford. After service in the First World War he joined the civil service, working at the Treasury, alongside holding a fellowship in history at All Souls, Oxford. Bridges became Secretary to the Cabinet in 1938 and throughout the Second World War was responsible for maintaining the machinery of government from its base in the Cabinet War Rooms. From 1945 to 1956 he was head of the civil service. He served as LSE Chairman of the Court of Governors throughout the directorship of Sir Sydney Caine.
Lionel Robbins, Lord Robbins, Chair 1968-1974
Apart from a year’s temporary lectureship at New College, Oxford, Robbins (1898-1984) was connected to LSE for over 60 years as a student, lecturer, professor and governor. Under Robbins’ leadership LSE became a world class centre for economics research and teaching. In 1941 he became director of the Economic Section of the War Cabinet Offices, returning to LSE in 1946. Active in public life, he was a trustee of both the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House and wrote the 1963 Robbins Report on the development of higher education in the UK. Robbins was Chairman during the turbulent years of student unrest at LSE.
Sir Morris Finer, Chair 1974-1974
Finer (1917-1974) studied law at LSE and was called to the bar at Gray’s Inn in 1943. Finer was the author of Justice for All (1967) and chaired the departmental committee “on the problems of one parent families”. He became a LCC appointed member of the Court of Governors in 1963. He was appointed to the Chairmanship in 1974 but died the same year of lung cancer.
Huw Wheldon, Chair 1974-1985
Wheldon (1916-1986) graduated from LSE in 1938 and after the Second World War worked on the Festival of Britain before joining the BBC in 1952. He devised and presented the first television arts programme, Monitor from 1958 to 1964 and was the first Managing Director of the BBC from 1969 to 1975. He received an honorary LSE fellowship in 1973 and became Chair of the Court of Governors following the sudden death of Sir Morris Finer.
Sir John Burgh, Chair 1985-1988
Sir John Burgh (1925-2013) was born Vienna and came to Britain in 1938. During the war he worked in munitions and in 1946 began studying economics at LSE as an evening student after passing the entrance examination. A Leverhulme grant enabled him to transfer to a full time degree in government. Burgh joined the Civil Service eventually working as Shirley Williams’s Permanent Secretary, but became the Director General of the British Council in 1980. He was an LSE Governor from 1980 to 2004, becoming Chair in 1985. He stood down in 1988 after his appointment as President of Trinity College, Oxford.
Sir Peter Parker, Chair 1988-1998
Parker (1924-2002) spent most of his childhood in France and China and during the Second World War served in the intelligence corps in India, Burma, USA and Japan. After the war he studied history at Lincoln College, Oxford and despite a keen interest in acting and politics he began a business career. In 1977 he became chairman of British Rail leaving in 1983. He was appointed Chair to the LSE Court of Governors in 1988.
Sir Anthony Grabiner, Chair 1998-2015
Grabiner (1945-) obtained a first class degree in law in 1966 and a LLM in 1967. He was called to the bar in 1968. Between 1990 and 1999 he was Recorder of the Crown Court and became a Deputy High Court Judge in 1994. He served as Chair of the Court of Governors from 1998 to 2007 and has been Master of Clare College, Cambridge since 2014.
Sir Peter Sutherland, Chair 2006-2015
Born in Ireland, Sutherland (1946-2018) practised at the Irish bar from 1969-1980 and was Attorney General of Ireland 1981-1982 and 1982-1984. In 1985 he became the youngest ever European Commissioner and in 1993 moved to be Director-General of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs becoming the first Director of the World Trade Organisation. He serviced as Chair of the LSE Court of Governors from 2006-2015 and is now a Professor in Practice in the LSE Institute of Global Affairs. He is the United National Special Representative of the Secretary General for International Migration.
Sir Paul Myners, Baron Myners, Chair 2015-2016
Lord Myners (1948-) worked briefly as a teacher after obtaining a first class degree in education from the University of London before becoming a financial journalist and working in the financial sector. In 2008 he was appointed Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury, receiving a life peerage. Lord Myners served as LSE Chair from 2015-2016 and is now Chancellor of the University of Exeter.