V Professor Sir Alan Fersht will be the first Jewish Master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, when he takes office on October 1.
A leading chemist and microbiologist, Sir Alan was knighted in 2003 for his work on proteins. He will continue his scientific work in parallel with his Mastership.
He recalled that “not knowing anything about Cambridge colleges when applying 50 years ago, I thought Caius looked suitable as the Dean was Hugh Montefiore.
“I met him on my second day at Cambridge and told him my interviews were scheduled for Yom Kippur. He asked me if I was frum — the only [future] bishop I have heard use the word — and he made alternative arrangements for me.”
Highlighting the “ecumenical spirit of the college”, he looked forward to “having a children’s Chanucah party in the Master’s lodge”.
Sir Alan is an active member of the Jewish community in Cambridge, where he is senior treasurer of Chabad and chairs the chaplaincy board. He is a former Wimbledon Synagogue warden.
His wife, Lady Marilyn, has chaired the Cambridge Jewish Residents Association for many years.
Founded in 1348, the college is the city’s fourth oldest and fourth largest. Famous Jewish alumni include the Olympian, Harold Abrahams.
The Master is the college’s head and is nominally responsible for its overall running and setting its tone. Today, the Master is significantly involved in fundraising.