Plymouth University celebrates 150 years since founding
Plymouth University is this week celebrating the 150th birthday of its Victorian-era founding as a School of Navigation.
The institution can trace its lineage back to 1862 when Dr John Merrifield established the school to provide vital training and education to mariners in the city.
The University is now one of the largest in the country – with a world-class research profile as acknowledged by its receipt of a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education this year – and will be commemorating its historical legacy tomorrow, Wednesday 24th October.
This will include the planting of some of the world’s most protected tree species to celebrate its international partnerships, and the unveiling of a new sculpture called ‘Enterprise’ designed by two of its students.
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Professor Wendy Purcell, Vice-Chancellor, said: “Plymouth University is a modern, dynamic institution – one ranked by Times Higher Education as among the top ten in the UK under the age of 50.
“At the same time, the University’s roots lie in the School of Navigation, founded by Dr John Merrifield in 1862 to answer a national call for improved training and education for mariners. While the University has grown beyond all recognition since that era, our commitment to serving our communities is still at the heart of what we do.”
Working with local theatre company Stiltskin, and students from performing arts, guests for the day will be taken on a ‘Curious Campus’ interactive tour, which will look back at the development of the city centre campus – one which has seen £150m worth of investment in the past decade, most recently with the new £19 million Marine Building.
The tour will visit a number of freshly planted international trees, which have been located around the campus, each commemorating a different overseas partnership. They include the Wollemi Pine from Australia (Wollemia Nobilis) – one of the world’s oldest and most protected species, and once thought to be extinct; the Patagonian cypress (Fitzroya cuppressoides) from Argentina, named by Charles Darwin after the Beagle’s master of the vessel; and the beautiful Handkerchief Tree (Davidia involucrate), from China.
A new wooden sculpture – called Enterprise – will also be officially unveiled outside of the Roland Levinsky Building, along with new campus plaques that explain how the buildings acquired their names.
An exhibition curated by University graduate and Vendee Globe yachtsman Conrad Humphries, called Sea Portraits, which features Plymothians who are intimately connected to the sea, will be launched in the Portland Square Building gallery, and there will be prize-giving for a number of competitions, including one which tasked students with creating an image around the 150th celebration.
Professor Purcell added: “We are a bold, innovative university, one that lives by its motto of ‘explore, dream, discover’. As our nomination for University of the Year has shown, we’re plotting an exciting course in the higher education sector, and we can be confident for the future.”
The University is also inviting people to “come on board” three key vessels that figure in both its history and present – its former training boat, the 1929-built ketch TS 'Tectona', its research catamaran RV 'Falcon Spirit', and the training yacht 'Take the Helm'.
All three will be alongside the Barbican Landing Stage on Wednesday and members of the public are invited to board the vessels between 2.00pm and 4.30pm.
The University, through Peninsula Arts, will also be hosting a special prestige lecture and concert on Saturday 27th October from BAFTA-winning composer Nick Ryan.
Nick will talk about how the death of his father, who was killed in a farming accident in Kenya when he was just six months old, has been a constant influence and inspiration in his work. He will then take to the stage for an evening of music with other musicians such as award-winning guitarist Will McNicol, University composers Eduardo Reck Miranda, Alexis Kirke, and John Matthias, and jazz musicians Mike and Kate Westbrook.