In a momentous year for the University, it was announced that Royal Academician, singer-songwriter, social activist and philanthropist Dr Annie Lennox OBE would succeed Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus as Chancellor.
Dr Lennox will become GCU’s first woman Chancellor when she is formally installed in July 2018. Professor Yunus, anti-poverty campaigner and founder of the Grameen Bank and Social Business Movement, will remain a lifelong friend to the University as Emeritus Chancellor.
Professor Yunus’ relationship with GCU began in 2008 when he delivered the inaugural Magnusson Lecture and was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters. Within two years, in 2010, GCU’s close collaboration with Professor Yunus had inspired the founding of the visionary, Unilever International Award winning Grameen Caledonian College of Nursing in Bangladesh.
In the same year, GCU established the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health to undertake pioneering research into the relationship between social business and health improvement. And, while visiting the campus in 2012, Professor Yunus announced the creation of the Grameen Scotland Foundation, the cornerstone of Grameen in the UK, which brought the Grameen microlending system to the country. Professor Yunus was installed as Chancellor in October that year.
Professor Yunus is dedicated to the empowerment of people living in poverty, supporting them in their efforts to change their lives and the lives of those around them.
For 40 years, he has championed the use of microfinance, social business and education as the drivers of social change. He has been presented with more than 120 honours around the world and, as the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, is one of only seven outstanding international figures, including the late Nelson Mandela, to have achieved such recognition.
In 2013, he was presented with a Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award, which honours leaders of the international business, entertainment, and activist communities who demonstrate commitment to social change, and, in 2016, he was presented with the Concordia Leadership Award in recognition of his power to inspire others through his ability to turn vision into impact.
Professor Yunus’ journey to the forefront of global anti-poverty activism began in 1976 when he was working as a lecturer in economics at the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh. The predatory loan sharking he witnessed around the university’s campus inspired a simple, but significant, gesture: he lent $27 to destitute craft workers and the seeds of microfinance were sown.
By 1983, Professor Yunus had established the Grameen Bank, which today operates in more than 40 countries, while its model has been adopted in more than 60 others. The Grameen system has been credited with helping to lift millions of people out of poverty.
As Chancellor, Professor Yunus presided over the graduation of thousands of GCU students and provided leadership, advice and support to the University as well as inspirational stewardship in GCU’s endeavours to harness its intellectual, social and emotional capital to resolve some of society’s greatest challenges.