Citations and Speeches


159th Congregation (2000)

The Rt Hon the Lord BUTTERFIELD
The Rt, Hon,the Lord, O.B.E., D.M., F.R.C.P.

The Public Orator, Professor M.M.M. Chan, MA, MPhil, wrote and delivered the following citation:

We very much regret that our first honorand, the Right Honorable the Lord Butterfield of Stechford, is unable to be with us this evening. "Some are born great" in the sense that they are destined to tower over the ordinary mortal by virtue of superior intellectual powers, and they "achieve greatness" through dedication and application. Such a man is the Rt Hon. the Lord Butterfield of Stechford; physician, teacher of medicine, educator and philanthropist. Lord Butterfield celebrated his eightieth birthday two days ago and more than a half century of those eighty years has been dedicated to the service of mankind through medicine, education and public service.

Lord Butterfield was educated at Solihull School and then proceeded to Exeter College, Oxford University. He went on to garner so many degrees that simply to recite them would stretch the patience of the audience - he holds B.A., M.A. and D.M. degrees from Oxford; M.A. and M.D. degrees from Cambridge, an M.D. from Johns Hopkins, not to mention numerous honorary degrees. In addition he is a F.R.C.P. (London) and F.A.C. P. (U.S.A). The much abbreviated account of his achievements in a staggeringly long Who's Who entry fills one with awe, and it has constantly to be updated to take note of his latest activities, honours and awards.

While at Oxford he also distinguished himself as an athlete. He represented Oxford in the 1940-41 rugby game against Cambridge and was captain of the hockey team from 1940 to 1942 and of the cricket team in 1942. After university he joined the military services and earned a sterling military service record, serving as Major in the Royal Army Medical Corps, Army Operational Research Group from 1947 to 1950. As a physician and medical scientist and teacher he has worked both in Britain and the United States. He was Professor of Medicine at Guy's Hospital Medical School from 1963 to 1971, working his way up from a position as junior lecturer in pathology in the University of Bristol in 1945.

Lord Butterfield has gained an equally distinguished reputation as an educator. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nottingham from 1971 to 1975 and Professorial Fellow at Downing College, Cambridge from 1975 to 1978 and Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University 1983 to 1985. Both the British University Grants Committee (1966-71) and the Hong Kong University and Polytechnic Grants Committee (1975-82) owe debts of gratitude to Lord Butterfield for the services he rendered them. He played a pivotal role in the launching of the Medical School of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

A well-known authority on diabetes he served as Chairman of the Bedford Diabetic Survey (1962), Chairman of the British Diabetic Association (1967-74), Founder Member (1964) and Vice-President of the Council of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (1968-1971). From 1964 to 1969 he was a member of the editorial board of Diabetaloga. He was a Consultant on the WHO Expert Committee on Diabetes from 1964-1980. He has written several books and made over 100 contributions to medical and allied literature on such topics as diabetes, burns, Tolbutamide, priorities in medicine, health care and educational topics. He has also edited the International Dictionary of Medicine and Biology.

He has provided leadership for innumerable national and international boards, committees and councils and philanthropic trusts, and even a selective list would take far too long to recite. I shall only attempt a sampling but I assure you I shall not even be covering the tip of the iceberg. He has served as Chairman of the Committee on the Training of University Teachers, Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (1972-76), Chairman of the Council for Education and Training of Health Visitors (1971-76), Chairman of the Council of Governors of United Medical and Dental Schools, London (1989-96). He has also served as a member of various House of Lords select committees. He is still active in philanthropic and charitable work. Current charities include the British Foundation for Age Research, the Health Promotion Research Trust, of which he was Chairman from 1983 to 1993, and the GB Sasakawa Foundation (Tokyo), of which he was Chairman between 1994 and 1997. His continued interest in sports is attested to by his presidency of the British University Sports Association.

Lord Butterfield has been invited to lecture at and to be visiting professor at leading institutions worldwide, in places as far asunder as Iowa, Perth, Helsinki, Cairo and Alexandria. He was Visiting Professor at Yale University as early as 1966 and Visiting Physician at Harvard Medical School in 1973. I could go on almost endlessly, but since "brevity is the soul of wit, I will be brief". He has served as Examiner in medicine at both Oxford and Cambridge among other places, and is a Member of numerous learned societies, including the Royal Society of Medicine, on which he served as Council Member of various sections and as Vice-President.

His links with Hong Kong go beyond his service on the Hong Kong Universities and Polytechnics Grants Committee. He has also contributed to the work of the Croucher Foundation as a trustee, serving as its Chairman from 1987 to 1996 and as its President since 1997.

It is only to be expected that Lord Butterfield would be the recipient of many honours and awards. Again a partial listing - he received an Honorary LLD from Nottingham in 1977, and Hon D.MedSci from Keio University in 1983, and an Hon D.Sc. from Florida International University in 1985, an Hon. MD from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1989, an Hon D.LL. from the University of Bristol in 1995 and an Hon D.Sc.(Med) from the University of London in 1997. Last year he received an Hon Doctor of Humane Letters from the Virginia Commonwealth University and became a member of the Japanese Order of Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays and Neck Ribbon. He became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1953 and a Knight Bachelor in 1978. That he is a life peer speaks volumes for the standing he enjoys as a professional and as a person.

Lord Butterfield lists as his recreations "tennis (not lawn), cricket (village) and talking (too much)". There is an apt comment on the qualities of a good teacher of medicine made anonymously: "If I were summing up the qualities of a good teacher of medicine, I would enumerate human sympathy, moral and intellectual integrity, enthusiasm and ability to talk, in addition, of course to knowledge of the subject". It would seem that Lord Butterfield has all the qualities enumerated, including the ability to talk, even if "too much".

For his multifarious and truly outstanding achievements as a medical scientist, an educator and as a tireless worker for the human good, I call upon you, Mr Pro-Chancellor, to confer the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa upon the Rt. Hon. the Lord Butterfield of Stechford in absentia.