Lord Gerald Gardiner

The latest feature in our series about pioneering staff of The Open University takes a closer look at the OU’s second Chancellor Gerald Gardiner.

Cropped from image:000000700000. Lord Gerald Gardiner of Kittisford (1900-1990) was the second Chancellor of The Open University.
Image : Gerald Gardiner
Date: 1973
Video: First OU graduation
Duration: 00:02:36
Date: 1973
Video: Gerald Gardiner
Duration: 00:01:10
Date: 1973

The second Chancellor of The Open University (1972-1978) was Lord Gerald Gardiner of Kittisford (1900-1990).

Gerald Gardiner was born in Chelsea, London on 30 May 1900. He was educated at Harrow School and later at Magdalen College, Oxford. He joined the Coldstream Guards in 1918 but later became a pacifist and joined the Peace Pledge Union. Gardiner became a barrister and was called to the Bar in 1925. During the Second World War he volunteered to join the Friends' Ambulance Unit and served with - and finally commanded - its sections on the Western Front.

In 1960 one of Gardiner's notable legal cases was winning an acquittal for Penguin Books for publishing Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence, following prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act (1959). Gardiner was a long-term campaigner for law reform.

Gardiner had joined the Labour Party in the 1930s and stood unsuccessfully in the 1951 general election. In 1963 Harold Wilson nominated him for a life peerage and, after the Labour victory in 1964, appointed him as Lord Chancellor, where his greatest achievement is said to have been the radical reform of the court system. He appointed the first woman High Court judge and was involved in paving the way for the Divorce Reform Act (1969), alongside numerous other reforms. As joint chairman of the National Campaign for the Abolition of Capital Punishment, the reform he was said to be most proud of was the suspension of the death penalty for murder in 1965 and its abolition in 1969. Gardiner retired as Lord Chancellor in 1970. 

Lord Gardiner was appointed as OU Chancellor after the sudden death of The Open University's first Chancellor, Lord Crowther, in 1972. He was installed at the University's first graduation ceremony, held at Alexandra Palace in 1973. After he accepted the Chancellorship, he himself enrolled for, and successfully completed a three-year degree course in Social Sciences at the OU, graduating in 1977 at the age of 76. He regularly attended study centres and participated in student activities, where he was known only as a student.

The Gardiner Building opened in 1985 and was occupied by the Social Sciences Faculty. It was officially named in 1986 by the then Chancellor, Asa Briggs. Lady Gardiner also attended the ceremony. Gardiner Building 2 (Offices 3) opened in 1992, two years after the death of Lord Gardiner at the age of 89 on 7 January 1990.

The first video on this page shows footage from The Open University’s first degree ceremony at Alexandra Palace in 1973 and the installation of Lord Gardiner as the University’s second Chancellor.

The second video on this page is a clip of Lord Gardiner at his first official event as Chancellor, the Mace ceremony in 1973.