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Catherine Arnold announced as the first female Chair of The Fitzwilliam Museum Syndicate

The Museum is delighted to announce Catherine Arnold OBE, Master of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, as the new Chair of the Fitzwilliam Museum Syndicate, and the first woman to hold this position in the Museum’s history.

Catherine takes up the position on 1 October 2021 following the retirement of Professor Geoff Ward, who served as Chair of Syndicate from 2014 onwards and also as Interim Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum between November 2017 and January 2019. Professor Ward is also retiring from his role as Master of Homerton College, Cambridge.

The Syndicate was established to undertake governance of the Museum, and reports directly to the University of Cambridge’s Regent House to ensure the Regent House is properly engaged, involved and accountable in the strategic direction and operational management of the University's academic and other activities.

The Museum’s Director reports directly to the Syndicate, ensuring the Museum fulfils its mission to touch people’s lives by engaging powerfully, thoughtfully and pleasurably with as wide a public as possible and to produce and promote innovative, relevant, and interdisciplinary research of the highest quality around our collections.

Catherine has had a distinguished international career in the diplomatic service. Her FCDO career saw her serve in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Oman and most recently as Ambassador to Mongolia. She has led on a range of issues including human rights, counter terrorism, trade, and public affairs, most recently leading the successful UK campaign to secure the nomination to host the COP26 climate conference in 2021. Prior to joining the FCDO, Catherine was a journalist and travel writer in the Middle East. Her career started with leading global management consulting firm, Oliver Wyman. Catherine was awarded an OBE for services to British foreign policy in the 2019 New Year Honours.

Speaking about her new appointment, Catherine said:

“I am delighted to have been appointed as chair of the syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, one of the world’s outstanding university collections. Having lived in many places across the globe, I have seen the importance of museums, and the works of human creativity they hold and share, in helping us to tell our personal and collective stories, and to explore our place within those of others – those around us, and those who have shaped the world we are in today.

As part of the University of Cambridge, the Fitzwilliam Museum has an important role to play in engaging powerfully and pleasurably with as wide a public as possible. I look forward to working with my fellow syndics and the wider University to support Fitzwilliam Director, Luke Syson, to take forward the vision of the Fitzwilliam Museum as a great cultural asset and scholarly resource.”

Luke Syson, Director and Marlay Curator at the Fitzwilliam, said:

“Geoff Ward has given so much to the Fitzwilliam – and we have benefitted hugely from his wisdom, idealism and humour, especially during the period he stepped out of the Chair to run the Museum between directors. But if he has to leave us, we’re absolutely thrilled that Catherine will be leading our Syndicate in the crucial years to come. Her international and organisational experience will be invaluable as we enter a period of change.”

1 October 2021

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