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On 9 May, the annual Chancellor's Circle Dinner was hosted by University Chancellor, Dr Fiona Hill, at the Barbican, London, to celebrate the impact of the group's transformational giving.

The Chancellor’s Circle 

The Chancellor’s Circle comprises the University’s most senior community of benefactors. Their donations support projects and programmes in crucial areas across the University, including research, scholarships and the wider student experience.  

This year, Dr Hill inducted eight new members to the Chancellor’s Circle. They join this ever-growing group of donors who have committed transformative gifts to the University.  


Highlighting impact 

The dinner provided an opportunity to celebrate the collective impact of the Chancellor’s Circle. Three speakers from across the University were invited to share the difference that the members’ generosity has had.  

Dr Ruaa Osman  (second from the right in the image above) (MSc Global and Planetary Health, Hatfield College) shared how the Lioness Scholarship programme enabled her to delve into epidemiology and health policy at Durham University. Having previously worked as a doctor in Sudan, she shared that this scholarship ‘emerged as a beacon of hope’ when she and her grandmother had to flee the country. Ruaa remarked ‘In my seven months at Durham, I've gained invaluable knowledge and perspective, equipping me to make a meaningful impact. After the war, I aim to return to Sudan to work with the Ministry of Health to help rebuild Sudan's healthcare infrastructure, prioritising patient-centred care to ensure inclusivity and quality’. 

Dr Steve Chivasa (far left in the image above), Associate Professor in the Department of Biosciences, spoke about how philanthropic support has enabled him to take his research project, which investigates how plants respond to stressful environments, to the next level. Donor funding has been invested in a programme which seeks to improve agricultural sustainability and climate resilience through developing microbiome-based agritech innovations. It brings together a Durham University research team with partners in Africa and has already benefited farmers in Zimbabwe.  

Mark Brian (far right in the image above), Head of Sport and Physical Activity, also spoke at the dinner and thanked our donors for their commitment to developing and expanding our facilities. Our facilities lay the crucial foundation for producing ground-breaking research, delivering a unique wider student experience, connecting with our local community and more. Chancellor’s Circle members have supported a wide range of facilities at Durham, from research laboratories to sports complexes. Mark highlighted various examples of how donor support has enabled the advancement of sport at Durham, which includes funding the construction of a boathouse next to Maiden Castle and the purchasing of new equipment for the Boxing Club, including an Olympic-sized ring.  


Showcasing our talent  

The evening served as an opportunity to showcase the musical talent of our students and alumni. Upon arrival, attendees were welcomed by a musical performance from the Dunelm Quartet, a string quartet made up of recent graduates from the Department of Music. They included first violinist Amy Ying (St John’s College, 2020), second violinist Megan Hathaway (Trevelyan College, 2020), violist Laura Cooper (St Cuthbert’s Society, 2021) and cellist Rob King (St Cuthbert's Society, 2013). 

The evening closed with a captivating grand finale from Durham University Chamber Choir. The Choir comprises 24 competitively auditioned choral singers who regularly tour internationally and have performed in many prestigious venues.