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Joan Kenworthy

The University is saddened to learn of the passing of Joan Kenworthy on May 18, aged 90.

Joan served the University as Principal of St Mary’s College between 1977 and 1999, and in these 22 years, was instrumental in its development. This included overseeing a considerable expansion of the college estate, adding the conference hall behind the dining room and an additional wing on what is now the Williamson Building. She was instrumental in building the warm relationship with Teikyo University which remains strong to this day. She also generously endowed a prize in the college for student leadership.   

Her significant contribution as Principal of St. Mary’s is recognised by the naming of Kenworthy Hall in the Fergusson Building.   

Early career  

After graduating from St Hilda’s College, Oxford, in 1959-60 Joan worked for Professor Gordon Manley at Bedford College London.  

She joined the University of Liverpool in 1960 as Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Geography, where she specialised in climatology and was subsequently promoted to Lecturer and Senior Lecturer.  

Academic career 

At Durham University, Joan combined her role as College Principal with a part-time position in Geography. Joan lectured on climatology and East Africa and resumed her collaboration with Gordon Manley, recording an extended temperature series for the northeast of England.

She was elected to the Council of the Royal Meteorological Society from 1985 to 1987.

She remained a central figure in the Department’s continuing involvement in climatology for many years, co-organising several conferences at the University and, with Nick Cox, obtaining an award from the Leverhulme Trust in 1995 for the digitization and analysis of the Durham record.  

A long association 

Joan continued her association with the Department and University after retirement, delivering lectures on climatology to Master’s students at Durham’s Queen’s Campus, and supervising an MSc thesis on air pollution and the development of Teesside Airport.  

She was awarded an Honorary Research Fellowship in the Department of Geography at Durham University from 2009-15.  

In 2015, Joan was awarded the Jehuda Neumann Memorial Prize of the Royal Meteorological Society.   

Her death is a loss to everyone connected to St Mary’s College, the Department of Geography and the wider Durham community and our thoughts and condolences are with Joan’s family and friends.  


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