Sir Dr Brian Harold May CBE
Brian May became our fourth Chancellor in 2007 (with his official installation at St George's Hall in 2008) after he was made an Honorary Fellow of the university. The Fellowship was awarded in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the Arts, and for encouraging the public understanding of science following publication of his book, Bang! The Complete History of the Universe, co-authored with Chris Lintott and Sir Patrick Moore, who was also an LJMU Honorary Fellow.
The appointment of a rock star as Chancellor is not as strange as it might seem given the links between his work as an astronomer and the university's acclaimed Astrophysics Research Institute. May studied astrophysics at Imperial College London and then embarked on a PhD, suspending his studies in 1974 to take what turned out to be a 33-year hiatus to be the lead guitarist for Queen, one of Britain's most successful rock groups.
Remarkably he re-registered for his PhD in 2006, and less than a year later submitted it successfully, coinciding appropriately with his new role at LJMU.
Having been a student himself twice, he brought a keen interest to the university, engaging with students and staff alike, with graduation being the high point of his role each year.
“It was a pleasure to shake the hands of graduands as they passed into the next scene in their lives. It was fascinating to see how individual and different they all were, even in the few moments that it took for them walk those few steps and accept the reward for their labours.”
– Sir Brian May on graduation ceremonies during his time as Chancellor of LJMU until 2013
In addition to our Astrophysics Research Institute, May found much in the university which related to him, saying: “LJMU is the most student-aware academic institution I've ever encountered.
“I honestly feel the way LJMU operates is much more personal than most institutions - and it is constantly re-examining itself ready to evolve to better serve its students in their quest to discover the best in themselves.
“Perhaps this sounds glib, but certainly these are not qualities that were prioritised by universities in the past. LJMU sets a new kind of standard.”
Brian was awarded a knighthood in the 2023 New Year Honours List, the first honours to be announced under King Charles III.