A native of Kent, Professor Richard came to East Anglia to study anthropology at Cambridge University. She later received her doctorate from London University. In 1972, she moved to the USA to join Yale University, where she became professor of anthropology in 1986. From 1991-1994, she was director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, which houses one of the world's most important university natural history collections.
In 1994, she became Provost of Yale, a role which saw her improve the University's financial position and grow the academic offerings there. An eminent researcher, she has studied the ecology and social behaviour of wild primates in Central America, West Africa, and the Himalayan foothills, but she is best known for her work on lemurs in the forests of southern Madagascar. For over thirty years, she has worked to help conserve Madagascar's unique natural heritage and enhance socio-economic opportunities for people living in and around the forest. She is involved with several professional bodies, including the Board of WWF. In 2005 she was appointed Officier de l'Ordre National in Madagascar.
After 31 years in the USA, Professor Richard returned home to the UK in 2003, joining the University of Cambridge as Vice Chancellor. Her achievements in that post received recognition in 2007, when Cambridge was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year title, and were celebrated in 2010, when she was awarded a DBE for her services to Higher Education.
In 2008, Professor Richard was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Science.
"Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to read the Citation for Alison Richard for the award of Honorary Doctor of Science.
Professor Alison Richard is the refreshingly, feminine face of the University of Cambridge which is one of Britain's oldest universities - and one of the most famous in the world. Known for her exceptional leadership qualities, as Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Richard has not only attracted the attention of the world's education media but also the interest of all at Anglia Ruskin University, particularly our very own Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Thorne, who considers himself extremely honoured to be among her peer group.
It is for her amazing achievements in her role as VC and for her outstanding contribution to the field of anthropology that she joins her fellow Faculty of Science and Technology graduands of this University to receive an honorary degree.
A native of Kent, Professor Richard came to East Anglia to study anthropology at Cambridge University. She later received her doctorate from London University. In 1972, she moved to the USA to join another very famous university - Yale - and was here that she was made professor of anthropology in 1986, a post she held until 1991. From 1991-1994, she was director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, where she was responsible for a University Natural History Collection of extreme significance. She was instrumental in preserving more than 11 million history specimens and anthropological artefacts and helped to create a new environmental science centre.
In April 1994, she became Provost of Yale, a role which saw her improve the University's financial position and grow the academic offering there. During this time she also initiated a drive for change which focused on recruiting more women and ethnic minority candidates to senior and professorial jobs. This was without doubt a campaign that was very warmly welcomed and much overdue. While she was at Yale, she continued to develop her reputation as an eminent researcher, studying the ecology and social behaviour of wild primates in Central America, west Africa, and the Himalayan foothills. Added to this is her 'most notable work' in the forests of southern Madagascar.
Since 1977, she has helped to spearhead an ongoing effort to conserve Madagascar's incredible natural heritage and enhance socio-economic opportunities for people trying to make a living in and around the forest. She continues to visit the area annually to check on the progress of this work. Professor Richard also finds time to become involved in other professional bodies and scientific advisory councils - including WWF, the largest privately supported international organisation in the world. It was while she was at Yale that she met and married her husband, a fellow anthropologist, Professor Robert Dewar, and went onto have two daughters - Bessie, a lawyer in the United States, and Charlotte who works for The Guardian newspaper.
After 21 years in the USA, Professor Richard came home to the UK to 'get her life back' after putting her all into the leading post there. Little did she know that her new role at Cambridge would be equally taxing. Joining the University of Cambridge as Vice Chancellor to introduce sweeping institutional change was surely the biggest next challenge she could face.
And it was. But Professor Richard, who is credited with being 'Polyanna-ish' in her optimistic approach, has made a very real difference. She has implemented a great number of changes to a once ancient system that is now looking much more contemporary. According to Professor Richard, her method of leadership is less about 'governance' and more about working as an effective team. By bringing her colleagues on side, she has got the University 'on a roll' in terms of its smooth running, and, through introducing new measures, she has turned its fortunes around.
Professor Richard's achievements were celebrated last year when Cambridge was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year title. The newspaper attributed the University's ability to compete on an equal footing with much richer American institutions as a tribute to its financial efficiency and its intellectual capacity. This is all very much the work of its intellectually brilliant but highly unassuming Vice Chancellor. We hope she continues to receive wide acclaim for her hard work and creativity.
Professor Richard has been already been recognised by Honorary Degrees from Peking University, China (2004), the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar (2005), York University, Toronto (2006) and the University of Edinburgh (2006) and Queen's University, Belfast (2008). In 2005 she was appointed Officier de l'Ordre National (Madagascar). Added to this, she has been an invited guest on Radio 4's Dessert Island Discs. So I think we all know she is now 'officially' ranked among the elite.
Mr Vice Chancellor, I present to you, Professor Richard. We salute her for her world-famous achievements and are delighted to have her as our 'local opposition'. She continues to inspire us, as a University, in everything we do. Professor Alison Richard, I hereby invite the Vice Chancellor to confer upon you the award of Honorary Doctor of Science."