The professors who shaped us

As graduation season rolls around we asked our alumni to share the professors who made the biggest impact on their lives. Whether it’s unforgettable lectures, career-inspiring advice, or being someone we turn to for support: we pay tribute to the staff at York who shaped us into the people we are today.

Professor David Waddington, head of Chemistry Department from 1983 to 1992

Professor David Waddington

“The lecturers all had different styles but I was totally amazed by David’s, even the most difficult concepts were made easily understandable. It was as if he knew how our brains worked and what was needed – something vital with chemistry. I achieved my ambition in becoming a chemistry teacher and was lucky to teach at some of the best sixth-form colleges in the country.

Throughout my career I had so many letters and comments from students on how much I helped them with understanding chemistry and getting them the results they needed, and that all came about because I modelled my teaching style on David’s! I owe my love of the subject and the most enjoyable career to Professor David Waddington.” – Michael

“David helped me get a PhD through difficult circumstances.” – Andy

Professor Kathleen Jones

Professor Kathleen Jones, founder of the Department of Social policy and social work in 1965

“Kathleen was one of the pioneers to recruit non-traditional students in early 1980s… She allowed many ‘drop-outs’ like me to resume their university education.” – Anon

“She was perhaps quite rightly suspicious of a third year Computer Science student wanting to do the MA in Social Policy, and interviewed me accordingly. Fortunately I passed the audition, enjoyed the course immensely and got the degree.” – Phil

Betty, ‘the tea lady at York’, 1970s

‘I worked catering one summer with Betty and some other nice ladies. She was loud, hilarious, efficient (and patient with inefficient me I suppose) and a very kind person. Then there were the Wentworth porters, always telling you a tall story. That was an education!” – Marion

Dr Keith Alderman (1963 to 2003) and Professor Sue Mendus CBE (1989 to 2012), Department of Politics

Dr Keith Alderman

“Keith was the most tolerant, witty, sarcastic, supportive and ultimately kind supervisor. I still think of him all the time. He was inspirational while being the least pompous person you could meet. He and the wonderful professor Sue Mendus are the reasons I have a degree.” – Tom

“As well as guiding my studies Keith helped me emotionally get through my finals. He invested time, over and above the norm, in helping us to succeed. I remember this also included giving me access to his vast stock of old newspapers to use for research. I still think about him often when anything interesting happens in UK Parliament.” – Rowan

Dr Jane Elliott, Department of English 2005 to 2011

Dr Jane Elliott

“Jane made me fall in love with Caribbean Literature in my final year of BA English at York. She was the most enthusiastic, engaging, and inspirational tutor. I ended up pursuing a Masters in Caribbean and Postcolonial Literature and completing a PhD in Caribbean women’s writing because of her!” – Rachel

Dr Rob Aitken, Department of Politics and Director of colleges, 1999 to 2024

“As a lecturer Rob’s module on Ethnicity and Conflict was one of the most interesting and informative I took in my time at York, and has shaped the way I look at a lot of global events (especially important more recently).

As Derwent provost he was a fierce supporter and friend to all the clubs and societies I was involved with, none more so than the college rugby team. He helped to create a phenomenal community and atmosphere within the college and most of my best friends to this day are people I met in my first few weeks in his Derwent. I sincerely hope he is recognised for the many years of effort and his overall contribution to university life.” – Anon

Dr Rob Aitken

Dr Helen Goodchild, Department of Archeology, 2010 to present

“I really appreciated how much Helen stood out from the crowd, how driven she was with her career and happy to show young people her expertise.” – Lili

Professor Richard Fletcher, Department of History, 1969 to 2001

“When I went to York in 1989 for my interview this wonderful, twinkly and gentle person put me at ease and seemed genuinely interested in what was saying. When I had an anxiety attack during my finals he was the person I sought out. He spoke to me in such a calm way that I was able to refocus and carry on. He was lovely.” – Debs

Dr Nicky Losseff, Department of Music, 1993 to 2016

Professor Peter Lamarque

“I loved my Beethoven module with Dr Nicky Losseff during my time at York as a Music student – she was so passionate!” – Anon

Professor Peter Lamarque, Department of Philosophy, 2000 to Present

“Peter was my supervisor for all my time at York (BA and MA) and was Head of Department when I started so I was very intimidated. However, Peter was lovely, very kind, conscientious, and supremely knowledgeable and passionate about Philosophy.

Peter saw me through highs and lows, was never judgemental, just a gentle sounding board or nudge in the right direction. He probably won’t remember me, but he made me believe in myself and for that I will always remember him.” – Becky

Dr Melissa Oliver-Powell, Department of English, 2021 to Present

Dr Melissa Oliver-Powell

“I was part of an MA group in her first module and her enthusiasm for film was contagious! She was really supportive, a good laugh and always encouraged us to come up with our own ideas.” – Mikki

Greville Bloodworth, Founding professor of Electronics Department 1978 to 1996

“Greville was an inspirational founder of the Electronics Department. He combined academic drive with humour. He was prepared to ask the advice and listen to students and evolve the course. A true character. He left a thriving department and a legacy of scholarships.” – Ian (aka Jack)

Dr Katie Smith, Department of Biology, 2014 to present

“A great lecturer who made learning really engaging and clear, always went above and beyond for her students and was a great role model.” – Jessica

Professor Gwyn Williams

Professor Gwyn Williams, Chair of the History Department 1965 to 1974

“Gwyn was an inspiring, enthusiastic, caring, great raconteur who enjoyed Cuba Libras in The Charles!” – Anon

Dr Erica Sheen, Department of English and Related Literature 2007 to present

“I owe my love of independent film to Erica, who introduced me to countless directors whom I had never heard of before. She shaped the course of my degree and allowed me, an extremely nervous 20 year old, to speak at a conference. And I will always remember her dog joining our COVID era seminars on Zoom!” – Maya

Thanks to all our alumni who contributed their memories of the professors who shaped them. If there’s a York member of staff who you’d like to celebrate, why not share your memories of them in the comments?

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1 Comment

  1. Claudia Nader Jaime

    Professor Mariana López has been a true inspiration since day one. I came in 2017 for my MSc in TFTV, where she was one of my lecturers, and I ended up staying in York to pursue a PhD supervised by Prof López. Not only is she brilliant in the fields of immersive sound design and accessibility, but she is one of the kindest, and most dedicated humans I’ve ever met. Witnessing a Latin American woman succeeding and leading positive changes for a fairer community in a white male dominated industry has been incredibly empowering.

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