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Sir Roger Bannister - Photo: © Pruneau/Wikimedia Commons

Sir Roger Bannister (1929-2018)

March 2018

It is with great sadness that the College has learned of the death of Sir Roger Bannister CH CBE (1929-2018), an alumnus and Honorary Fellow of the College.

Sir Roger came up to Oxford in 1946 to read Physiological Sciences at Exeter College, before coming to Merton in 1950 as a Harmsworth Senior Scholar to continue his studies, completing his doctorate in 1963. It was during this time that he made headlines around the world, when on 6 May 1954 at the Iffley Road track he broke the four-minute mile, an achievement that he will always be remembered for.

After retiring from running, Sir Roger focussed on his medical and academic career, making important contributions to the understanding of the autonomic nervous system, something which he later said he felt prouder of than his success in athletics.

As well as inspiring generations of runners, Sir Roger also had a wider impact upon sport, when as chairman of the Sports Council in the 1970s he introduced the first anabolic steroid tests for athletes.

Sir Roger always retained a close connection with the University of Oxford. In 1985 he was elected as Master of Pembroke College, becoming an Honorary Fellow there on his retirement in 1993. He was made an Honorary Fellow of Merton College in 1987, as well as of his other alma mater Exeter College (in 1979), and of Harris Manchester College. He was knighted in 1975, and in 2017 he was made a Companion of Honour for his services to sport.

The Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Lord Patten of Barnes, has said:

"He was not just one of the great athletes of the last century but a superb doctor and servant of Oxford University. At the age of 88 he was still an active supporter of the University and we will miss him enormously."

Professor Louise Richardson, the Vice-Chancellor, has added:

"Roger Bannister epitomised what it means to be a living legend. He was a regular presence at University events and remained committed to Oxford University to the end, engaging with students, challenging academics, and inspiring all of us."

Photo: © Pruneau/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]