Valerie Amos: the coolest of cool to handle Soas’s hot potato

The new Soas director and first female black head of a UK university has a lifetime of achievement and diplomacy to draw on. In these troubled times, she may need it

100 years of Soas in pictures

The curious thing about Valerie Amos is most people have never heard of her and those who have can’t quite put their finger on what she’s done. In fact, her achievements are staggering. When she became international development secretary in 2003, she was the first British cabinet minister from an African-Caribbean background. Now, newly installed at age 61 as director of London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), she is the first black woman to head a UK university. She has been leader of the House of Lords, high commissioner to Australia and, despite being a Labour life peer, was recommended by David Cameron for a top UN post as undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs.

She ought, you feel, to be an inspiration for young black Britons and a prominent spokesperson for their hopes, fears and frustrations. It is not her style, however, to seek the limelight or play to the gallery. She is a doer, not a publicist.

Continue reading…

The new Soas director and first female black head of a UK university has a lifetime of achievement and diplomacy to draw on. In these troubled times, she may need it

100 years of Soas in pictures

The curious thing about Valerie Amos is most people have never heard of her and those who have can’t quite put their finger on what she’s done. In fact, her achievements are staggering. When she became international development secretary in 2003, she was the first British cabinet minister from an African-Caribbean background. Now, newly installed at age 61 as director of London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas), she is the first black woman to head a UK university. She has been leader of the House of Lords, high commissioner to Australia and, despite being a Labour life peer, was recommended by David Cameron for a top UN post as undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs.

She ought, you feel, to be an inspiration for young black Britons and a prominent spokesperson for their hopes, fears and frustrations. It is not her style, however, to seek the limelight or play to the gallery. She is a doer, not a publicist.

Continue reading…

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