Former adviser to Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump becomes chancellor of Durham University

Passionate about social mobility, Fiona Hill has described her life as going “literally from the coalhouse to the White House.” Now she will carry out a role giving back to her home county. Credit: Durham University

A former adviser to Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump, who hails from County Durham is to become the city's next university chancellor.

Fiona Hill, from Bishop Auckland, follows the likes of opera singer Sir Tom Allen, author Bill Bryson OBE and ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn into the role.

Following the announcement on Monday 28 November, Ms Hill said: “It is an immense privilege, surprise and honour to be selected as the next Chancellor of Durham University in the county where generations of my family have deep roots and where I spent my formative years. 

“I am very much looking forward to becoming more involved in university life, meeting staff and students, and engaging with the wider community as I carry out my duties.”

Ms Hill, specialised in Russian and European geopolitics and served on the US National Intelligence Council of the White House between 2006-2009. She was then appointed by President Trump to the US National Security Council in 2017.

While chancellor, Ms Hill will continue working as a senior fellow in the Centre on the United States and Europe, in the foreign policy programme at the Brookings Institution - a non-profit public policy organisation based in Washington DC.

Passionate about social mobility, Ms Hill has described her life as going “literally from the coalhouse to the White House.”

Born the daughter of a coal miner, she attended Bishop Barrington comprehensive school in Bishop Auckland.

Joe Docherty, chair of Durham University Council, said: “I am delighted that Fiona will be taking up this important role.

"As chancellor, Fiona will serve as a living embodiment of the transformative powers of education and research and help to inspire our university community, especially our students, to achieve extraordinary things at Durham and beyond.

“Her educational journey, pre-eminence in Russian and global affairs, and commitment to truth highlights the value and importance of higher education, in the twenty-first century.”

Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, Professor Karen O’Brien said: “It is an honour to appoint a chancellor with such an extraordinary and deep understanding of global affairs.

"Fiona’s outstanding career as an exemplary public servant will resonate strongly amongst our university community, especially in light of her beginnings in the North East of England.”

Ms Hill will take up the role in a ceremony at Durham Cathedral next summer.

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