Gresham College, London’s oldest Higher Education Institution, is delighted to announce the appointment of a new Provost for Gresham College, Dr Simon Thurley CBE, who succeeds the historian Professor Sir Richard J Evans FBA, who has come to the end of his statutory term of office.

Simon Thurley has been Visiting Professor of the Built Environment at Gresham College since 2009; he has also previously been Curator of Historic Royal Palaces, Director of the Museum of London, and Chief Executive of English Heritage.

The College is also appointing a CEO for the first time as part of its new 5-year business plan, and Dr Wendy Piatt will be taking up this role.

Wendy Piatt is the Director of a company which provides advice on education and public affairs and has worked for University College London since 2017. She was inaugural CEO of the Russell Group of Universities and has served in the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and the Department for Education and Skills.

Simon Thurley said: 
“I am a long-standing visiting Professor at Gresham and a huge enthusiast for Gresham College and for its work. I hope to bring Gresham’s work to new audiences in Britain and around the world and strengthen its digital brand as well as its programme.”

Wendy Piatt said

“I am passionate about Gresham College’s time-honoured mission to bring knowledge and understanding to as wide an audience as possible – free of charge. The College has a crucial role to play in reaching out to people of all backgrounds to nurture intellectual curiosity and stimulate a sheer love of learning about ourselves and the world around us.”

As Provost, Simon Thurley will oversee the academic side of the College, and Wendy Piatt will drive its business plan. Together they will work to strengthen the College’s work of delivering free public lectures within the City of London and beyond. During a normal academic year, Gresham College fills auditoriums for its lectures – a total of 130 a year, and all Gresham lectures are live-streamed. More than 2,500 past lectures are freely available to view on the College’s website. A series of six free public lectures a year is delivered by each of the College’s ten Professors, who currently include Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty. These are augmented by series presented by Visiting Professors and as many as 40 individual lectures from a range of illustrious speakers selected from the worlds of academia, the arts, law, medicine, politics and industry.

Simon Thurley will continue to deliver lectures as a Visiting Professor at Gresham in 2020-21.

Loyd Grossman, Council Chair (Chair of Trustees) at Gresham College, said:

“My fellow trustees and I are very excited about these two appointments and feel that Simon and Wendy will bring even more new thinking and dynamism to our venerable, but forward-looking and innovative institution. With these two senior leaders Gresham College will bring the world’s best thinking to an even wider audience.”

About Dr Simon Thurley CBE

Simon Thurley is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research, Visiting Professor of the Built Environment at Gresham College and Honorary Fellow at Royal Holloway College. He is also a Director and Trustee of the British Library and on the client Board for the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament). He has published 13 books, and is a well-known lecturer, broadcaster and public speaker. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, of the Royal Historical Society, the RIBA and the RICS. His most recent book is Houses of Power: The Places that Shaped the Tudor World, published in 2017.

About Dr Wendy Piatt

Dr Wendy Piatt has worked for University College London since 2017. She has worked at the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Department for Education and Skills, and the Prime Minister’s strategy unit.  She served as the inaugural Director-General and Chief Executive of the Russell Group, which represents the 24 major research-intensive universities in the UK, from February 2007 to February 2017.

Dr Piatt has written or edited many reports, several of which have influenced government policy. She has been a regular commentator in the print and broadcast media and is a frequent speaker and chair at high-level conferences, including for the United Nations.

She has a Master's degree and a Doctorate in Political Philosophy and Literature from Lincoln College, Oxford, and a first degree in English Language and Literature from King’s College, London.

Gresham During Coronavirus/ COVID-19

During the lockdown period in the UK Gresham College has been trying to live-stream as many lectures as possible online direct from Professors’ homes.

Note to Editors: Further information from Lucia Graves in the press office: 07799 738 439 or l.graves@gresham.ac.uk