The first Principal of Jesus College Oxford, Dr David Lewis (1520-1584), will be honoured at St Mary’s Priory Church, Abergavenny on Friday July 15th by a congregation of past and present College members, educationalists, politicians, local cultural organisations and church representatives. The ceremony will not only highlight his historically important career, but will also draw attention to current moves in Wales to encourage the brightest students from similar backgrounds to follow a path towards academic excellence.
Dr Lewis was born in Abergavenny and educated at King Henry VIII Grammar School. He graduated at Oxford and went on to become a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford in 1541 and Principal of New Inn Hall in 1546. He then embarked on a glittering career as a civil lawyer under the Tudors, becoming Master of Chancery in 1553 and eventually a Commissioner of the High Court of Admiralty. He briefly became MP for Steyning in in 1553 and Monmouthshire in 1554. He was a close advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, the Founder of Jesus College, and she appointed him as the First Principal in 1571.
He was buried in St Mary’s Church in 1584 and his tomb now rests in the Lewis Chapel. Old College Members have subscribed to a new plaque to commemorate his life and his contribution to Wales.
In the days when there was no Welsh university, Jesus College was one of the few paths to higher education for young Welshmen. Scholarships were created, and Jesus College was endowed with extensive land in Wales and elsewhere to help finance its activities.
For centuries Jesus graduates returned to Wales and made a major contribution to public life (including politics and journalism) and Welsh scholarship. For various reasons those links have been eroded in recent years. One particular group of Old Members, who have raised many thousands of pounds for scholarships and bursaries for disadvantaged students from all over the world in recent years, now want to encourage bright young students from Wales (with the support of their teachers) to apply for places at Oxford, Cambridge and other prestigious universities.
As well as unveiling the new plaque to the first Principal, the current Principal, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt, will be talking to guests with a vested interested in persuading young Welsh students from less advantaged backgrounds to apply to Oxbridge.
He’ll be accompanied by Lord Murphy of Torfaen, formerly Paul Murphy MP, a Welsh miner’s son who won a place at Oxford and went on to become Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland. Lord Murphy played a major part in the setting up of the Welsh Government’s Seren Network – the move to encourage Wales’ brightest young sixth formers to apply to prestigious universities. Representatives from the Seren Hubs will also be present.
The unveiling ceremony will take place at 3.00pm on July 15th in St Mary’s Priory. The Vicar of St Mary’s, Canon Mark Soady, will officiate and the King Henry VIII School Choir will sing. Media representatives are invited.