Professor David Patterson
A Guardian Angel of Jewish Identity in Great Britain
In the same year, 1992, following negotiations between Lord David Young and Lord David Wolfson, and thanks to the great generosity of Dr. Felix Posen, the Centre was finally able to purchase the Yarnton Manor Estate with its eight and a half acres of ground and all the cottages from the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust. The ownership of its main campus must be viewed as a favorable augury for the long term continuity of the Centre, while the dignity and antiquity of its buildings place it firmly within the best of the Oxford architectural tradition. At the same time, due to the sterling efforts of Mr. Michael Garston, the Trustees of the Leopold Muller Foundation granted the sum of one-million pounds to the Centre as an endowment for the library, thereby ensuring its continuation and development. At the beginning of 1993 Professor Philip Alexander of Manchester University was appointed President for three years and he was succeeded by Professor Bernard Wasserstein who also held office for three years. In the intervening periods Professor Martin Goodman bravely held the fort as Acting President until the appointment of Mr. Peter Oppenheimer as President in April 2000. During these past eight years, a significant feature has been the introduction of an Oxford University Graduate Diploma in Jewish Studies which now attracts annually some twenty-five graduates from a variety of disciplines and many parts of the world. This diploma represents an important expansion of the Center"s activities.
Since its inception the Centre has hosted some five-hundred major scholars who have spent five months or an academic year on the Yarnton Manor Estate. Together with the Center"s own Fellows, they have collectively produced a growing number of books and articles in academic journals as well as literary works which at a preliminary estimate exceeds more than a thousand items. In addition over the years the Centre has hosted more than fifty international conferences. An agreement with Oxford University has enabled the Fellows of the Centre to move from 45 St. Giles" to a new floor on the Oriental Institute of Oxford University especially built for this purpose. All the Fellows of the Centre have been elected to Research Lectureships of Oxford University so that the connection between the two bodies is now extremely close.
From October 2002 the Graduate Diploma in Hebrew and Jewish Studies has become an M.St. (Master of Studies) Degree of Oxford University. Late in 2002 the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust generously granted the Centre an additional forty-five acres of land contiguous with the main campus. This gift is particularly important because of the ruined farm buildings it contains. As the green belt regulations will only permit the erection of buildings on existing foundations, planning permission has been obtained for seven residential units for visiting scholars. Once the necessary sum of one-million pounds for the building of these units has been acquired, it will be possible to invite an additional fourteen major scholars annually for five months each, thereby greatly enhancing the intake of major academic figures on an international scale. In wider perspective, the creation of the Oxford Centre has been followed by the growth of centers of Jewish study in Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Southampton, the School of Oriental and African Studies London and University College London as well as the establishment of the Centre for Holocaust Studies at Nottingham. It is hoped that all these Centers and perhaps others will continue to grow and flourish in the years ahead.
Source: "A Brief History" by Professor David Patterson
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