RIT to bestow honorary doctorate degree on Britain’s Lady Hamlyn

Nov 03, 2014

Thumbnail for RIT to bestow honorary doctorate degree on Britain’s Lady Hamlyn
Thumbnail for RIT to bestow honorary doctorate degree on Britain’s Lady Hamlyn

Rochester Institute of Technology will bestow an honorary degree on one of Britain’s best-known philanthropists, a woman widely recognized for improving the quality of life for older people and philanthropic efforts on behalf of the arts.

Lady Hamlyn, who together with her late husband, Paul Hamlyn, supports a wide range of applied arts, education forums and social justice projects as chair of the Helen Hamlyn Trust, will receive an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at the University Gallery inside Booth Hall.

A close friend of RIT trustees Lella and the late Massimo Vignelli, Lady Hamlyn supported and participated in the dedication of the Vignelli Center for Design Studies in 2010. Her commitment to RIT was further extended through the Helen Hamlyn Trust, which made possible the Massimo and Lella Vignelli Distinguished Professorship in Design Endowment Fund at RIT.

“Lady Hamlyn has dedicated her life to pursuing knowledge and applying that knowledge toward the advancement of our society,” said R. Roger Remington, RIT’s Vignelli Distinguished Professor of Design. “She has created a legacy that elevates the foundation of design and the arts for generations to come.”

With the establishment of the Vignelli professorship at RIT, the Helen Hamlyn Trust was instrumental in helping to ensure the quality of design education at RIT into the future and reinforced RIT principles that encourage leadership in the design field, Remington added.

Born in London in 1934, Lady Hamlyn graduated as a fashion designer from the Royal College of Art in the mid-1950s before working as head designer for Cresta Silks and Debenhams. Since the mid-1980s, she has worked tirelessly to promote a better environment and better-designed products for older people through her charitable efforts.

A major focus has been the design of homes for older people and the household equipment available to them. She also has looked to improve the fragmented health and social care systems on which many older people are dependent, and helped develop Britain’s Elderly People’s Integrated Care System (EPICS). The system has established working models for enhanced care and support for older people in their communities.

Today, the Helen Hamlyn Trust, which has endowed the RCA Helen Hamlyn Centre in London, supports innovative projects designed to effect lasting change and improve quality of life. Its wide-ranging projects include medical, arts and culture, education and welfare to healthy aging and international humanitarian affairs.

The RIT honorary doctorate degree will be the latest such honor for Lady Hamlyn, who has received the French government’s Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres along with honorary degrees from Fordham University, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art.

Following the honorary doctorate ceremony, Lady Hamlyn will tour RIT’s School for American Crafts glass studios.