University of Leicester alumnus amongst ten Windrush pioneers to have portrait commissioned by the King

Sir Godfrey ‘Geoff’ Palmer OBE is one of ten pioneering members of the Windrush Generation who have had portraits commissioned by King Charles III to mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush.

Geoff studied Botany at University of Leicester, and met his wife, Margaret whilst studying at the University before graduating in 1964.

He is known for revolutionising the brewing industry with the discovery of the barley abrasion process and the development of sorghum as brewing material and food in Africa. He also helped to secure Britain’s first exports of barley to China.

Geoff was born in Jamaica in 1940. His mother moved to work as a dressmaker in England in 1948, as part of the Windrush Generation.

He joined his mother in London in 1955, just before his 15th birthday.

After attending University of Leicester, Geoff studies for a PhD jointly with Heriot-Watt University (then Heriot-Watt College) and University of Edinburgh.

He is known as the first black professor in Scotland and was appointed as the Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in 2021.

He was awarded an OBE in 2003 and knighted in 2014.

Geoff was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Leicester in 2016 and a student accommodation block was named after him on the University’s new Freemen’s campus.

Geoff was selected by The Windrush Portraits Committee, along with nine others from across the UK.

His portrait, painted by Derek Fordjour, will be displayed from Windrush Day (Thursday, 22 June) at the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh until September before moving to the National Portrait Gallery, London in October.

His Majesty King Charles III said: “It is, I believe, crucially important that we should truly see and hear these pioneers who stepped off the Empire Windrush at Tilbury in June 1948 – only a few months before I was born – and those who followed over the decades, to recognise and celebrate the immeasurable difference that they, their children and their grandchildren have made to this country.”

Sir Geoff Palmer said: “We cannot change the past but we can change consequences such as racism for the better using education. The education I received at this University, as a member of the Windrush Genration, changed my life for the better.”

Geoff will feature on a BBC Two documentary about the project on Thursday, June 22. The programme will air at 7:45pm.