Sir David Attenborough to commemorate the beginnings of the University of Leicester on Armistice Day

Story of the founding of Leicester's first university to be remembered on Sunday 11 November.

In the centenary year of the end of the First World War, one of the city’s most treasured families will commemorate the founding of the University of Leicester and the story of its creation.

Sir David Attenborough and Michael Attenborough CBE will pay their respects to those from Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland who made sacrifices during the Great War and start the formal celebrations of the centenary of Leicester’s first university.

On 11 November 1918, the First World War came to an end and local physician Dr Astley Clarke created the ‘Leicester University Fund’ in celebration of peace. Dr Clarke made the first contribution of one hundred pounds and over the next few years, many people from across the region gave money to the cause.

The Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland University College – now the University of Leicester – opened its doors in 1921 as a living memorial for all local people who made sacrifices during the First World War. The University’s motto Ut vitam habeant – ‘so that they may have life’ continues to reflect this.

President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester, Professor Paul Boyle CBE, said: “Armistice Day gives us opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices that others made so that we might have peace today. This year is particularly meaningful because it marks the beginning of the story to create a university in Leicester as a living memorial to honour those who made sacrifices during the Great War.

“We are honoured that Sir David and Michael Attenborough have accepted our invitation to dedicate Centenary Square in honour of that legacy. It really does represent the centre of life on our campus, hosting our Christmas fair, graduation celebrations, arts and community events, and more.”

The Attenboroughs, as patrons of the University’s centenary campaign, will be honoured guests at a dedication ceremony on Sunday 11 November to officially name Centenary Square, a communal square in the heart of the University’s campus.

The Attenborough family has a long association with the University of Leicester, beginning with the appointment of Frederick Attenborough as Principal in 1932. His sons lived on campus, Sir David going on to become a much-loved naturalist and television personality. His brother, actor and filmmaker Lord Richard Attenborough, campaigned for the creation of an arts centre on the University campus, now named the Attenborough Arts Centre. The Centre, of which Michael is patron celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017.

They will also represent the University at the city’s remembrance event at the Arch of Remembrance in Victoria Park earlier on the Sunday. Here, they will lay the first wreath for the University’s three-year poppy pilgrimage, in which poppy wreaths will be laid at war memorials across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland by students, staff and alumni. Further wreaths will be laid throughout the day by students who are receiving financial support for their studies as part the University’s Centenary Scholarship programme.

Find out more about the University’s centenary.

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