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Senior British political figure Sir Malcolm Rifkind will visit Durham University to give a lecture and help raise funds in memory of a former student.

Sir Malcolm, who served as Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary in Sir John Major’s government of the 1990s, will give the second Michael McCarthy Memorial Lecture, beginning at 5.30pm on Thursday 6 October, at University College (Durham Castle).

Michael was an American postgraduate student who studied at University College. A married father-of-one, he died suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition in 2012.

The lecture, which is free to attend, will be followed by a fund-raising dinner to support a bursary scheme in Michael’s name that helps current University College students with the cost of travel to the USA in support of their studies.

During the event, an auction will take place, including various items of signed political memorabilia, to raise funds for the bursary.

See the Find Out More section (below) for further details, including how to attend the lecture and/or the dinner.

Delighted and honoured

Sir Malcolm Rifkind said: “I am delighted and honoured to give the Michael McCarthy Memorial Lecture at Durham University.

“My subject will be ‘Russia, a Riddle wrapped in a Mystery, inside an Enigma?’. This description by Winston Churchill in 1941 is, sadly, highly relevant today.”

The event has been organised by former University College student John Slinger, who was a friend of Michael’s while they studied at Durham in 2001-2002, together with senior members of the College.

Transatlantic relationship

John said: “I wanted a living memorial to a much-missed son, father and friend that pays tribute to his affection for Durham University and the UK, and his strong belief in the transatlantic relationship.

“The memorial lecture and dinner will raise funds for the Michael McCarthy Travel Bursary that has already enabled several students at University College to visit the US for their studies. I’m very grateful to the College for their support and to Sir Malcolm Rifkind for being our guest speaker. Students, staff and residents of Durham are most welcome to participate.”

Educational opportunity

Professor Wendy Powers, Principal of University College, Durham University, said: “University College is delighted and honoured to host Sir Malcolm Rifkind for the Michael McCarthy Memorial Lecture. 

“Sir Malcolm’s career and legacy is renowned, and this is just the type of educational opportunity our dear alumnus, Michael McCarthy, wanted for our learning community.

“We are grateful to the McCarthy family and John Slinger for making this possible and for partnering with us to ensure Michael’s impact at Castle continues.”

Find out more

  • People can get free tickets for the lecture only from Durham University’s events website.

  • People wishing to attend the drinks reception and formal dinner, can buy tickets, priced £35, at this link.

  • Those who cannot attend the lecture or dinner, but wish to donate to the Michael McCarthy Memorial Travel Bursary can do so here (specify “Michael McCarthy Memorial Fund” in the drop down designation box).