Alison Richard

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Dame Alison Richard

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
In office
Preceded byAlec Broers
Succeeded byLeszek Borysiewicz
Personal details
Born (1948-03-01) 1 March 1948 (age 71)
Bromley, Kent, England
Spouse(s)Robert E. Dewar[1]
ChildrenCharlotte Dewar and Bessie Dewar[1]
ResidenceMiddle Haddam, Connecticut, U.S.
Alma materNewnham College, Cambridge
King's College London
Alison Richard Building, Cambridge

Dame Alison Fettes Richard, DBE, DL (born 1 March 1948) is an English anthropologist, conservationist and university administrator. She was the 344th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge,[3] the third Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge since the post became full-time, and the second woman.[4]

Early life[edit]

Alison Richard was born in Kent. She attended the Queenswood School and was an undergraduate in Anthropology at Newnham College, Cambridge, before gaining a PhD from King's College London in 1973 with a thesis titled Social organization and ecology of propithecus verreaux grandidier.[5]

Research and teaching[edit]

In 1972, she moved to Yale University where she taught and continued her research on the ecology and social behavior of wild primates in Central America, West Africa, the Himalayan foothills of Pakistan, and the southern forests of Madagascar. She was named Professor of Anthropology in 1986 and chaired the Department of Anthropology at Yale from 1986 to 1990. From 1991 to 1994 she was the Director of Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History, which houses one of the world’s most important university natural history collections. In 1998 she was named the Franklin Muzzy Crosby Professor of the Human Environment.[6]

Richard is best known for her studies of the sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi), a lemur of southern and western Madagascar. With collaborators and students, she led a program of field observation, capture and release, anatomical measurement, and genetic and hormone sampling, of more than 700 individually known sifaka from 1984 to the present.[citation needed] This is one of the largest primate populations continuously observed for such a long period. The research has yielded valuable insights into sifaka life-histories, demography, social behavior, and genetics. These, in turn, expand the understanding of the variation in the lives and biology of the members of the primate order.[citation needed]

University administration[edit]

From 1994 until 2002, she was Provost of Yale University with operational responsibility for the University’s financial and academic programs and planning. From 2003 to 2010, Richard was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. During her tenure, she led several major changes in university policy, ranging from intellectual property to undergraduate financial aid, re-organized management of the University's endowment, and expanded Cambridge’s global partnerships, most notably in the US, China, India, Singapore, and the Persian Gulf.[7] She launched and completed a billion-pound fund-raising campaign, the largest ever for a UK university.[8]


In the 1970s, in collaboration with RW Sussman (Washington University) and G Ramanantsoa (University of Madagascar), she helped establish a nature reserve at Beza-Mahafaly, southwest Madagascar, which was formally incorporated into the Madagascar Nature Reserve system in 1986.[9]

For more than three decades, she has worked with colleagues to help conserve the reserve’s unique natural heritage, sponsor training and research by students from Madagascar and elsewhere, and to enhance socio-economic opportunities for people living in and around the forest. Over the years, these conservation efforts have been funded by the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation,[10] WWF,[9] the Schwartz Foundation,[9] and USAID.

Advisory boards[edit]

Richard is currently a member of the Boards of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute,[11] and of WWF International.[12] She serves as an advisor to the Liz Claiborne/Art Ortenberg Foundation, Arcadia Fund, and to the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. She is also Chairman of the Advisory Board of the executive search firm Perrett Laver.


Richard was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[13] In 2005, she was appointed Officier de l'Ordre National in Madagascar.[6]

She has received honorary doctorates from universities in the UK (Edinburgh, Queens University Belfast, Anglia Ruskin, Exeter, Cambridge), China (Peking, Chinese University of Hong Kong), Madagascar (University of Antananarivo), Canada (York), Korea (Ewha Women’s University) and the US (Yale), and in 2011 she was made a Fellow of King's College, London.[citation needed]

She was awarded the Green Globe Award of the Rainforest Alliance (1998), and the Verrill Medal, Yale University (2008). She was made Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Cambridgeshire in 2004.[14] She is an Honorary Fellow of Lucy Cavendish, Newnham and Wolfson Colleges, University of Cambridge.[citation needed]


She is a member of the Athenaeum Club.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Provost Alison Richard nominated as Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor". 31 (13). Yale Bulletin & Calendar. 6 December 2002. Archived from the original on 18 April 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2009. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ Sugden, Joanna (19 March 2009). "Campus fury at vice-chancellors' windfalls". The Times. London, UK. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  3. ^ "New Vice-Chancellor for Cambridge". University of Cambridge. Archived from the original on 3 October 2010. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  4. ^ "Cambridge comes calling with 'happening' card". The Telegraph. 10 January 2009. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  5. ^ "Social organization and ecology of propithecus verreaux grandidier". King's College London Library Catalogue. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  6. ^ a b "Alison F. Richard biography". Yale University. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  7. ^ "Alison Richard: The quiet revolutionary". The Guardian newspaper. 31 October 2006. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  8. ^ "Cambridge University anniversary campaign tops £1bn". BBC News. 11 June 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  9. ^ a b c Peter M. Kappeler, David P. Watts (2012): Long-term Field Studies of Primates. Springer.
  10. ^ "In Madagascar". The Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  11. ^ "Trustees". Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  12. ^ "Prof. Alison Richard". WWF. Archived from the original on 19 May 2014. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  13. ^ "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 6.
  14. ^ "Royal aides chosen". Cambridge News. 16 November 2004. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013. Retrieved 27 April 2013.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir Alec Broers
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge
Succeeded by
Leszek Borysiewicz