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Obituary: Sir Donald Barron

Image credit: The Telegraph
Image credit: The Telegraph
Image credit: The Telegraph

Sir Donald Barron was a leading businessman in York, taking the helm of Rowntrees and its subsequent forms, who contributed greatly to the foundation of the University of York through his involvement in the York Academic Trust. 

Born in 1921, Donald James Barron fought with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers in the Second World War. He studied commerce after the war’s end and entered the world of business as an employee of Rowntrees‘, the York-based manufacturer of chocolate. He became chairman of Rowntree and Co. in 1966 and led the company to great success, merging with other chocolate producers to create a leading figure in the chocolate industry.

As part of the York Academic Trust, Barron worked with figures such as J.B. Morrell and Eric Le Page to establish a university in the city of York. Without the support of the city council, the Trust had to purchase the land and develop the university without the help of the city council.

Barron was knighted by Her Majesty Elizabeth II in 1972. He chaired Midland Bank from 1982 to 1987; he also led the York Millennium Bridge Trust which was responsible for the erection of the Millennium Bridge.

Barron left his company, then Rowntree Mackintosh, in 1981 and became chairman of the Joseph Rowntree foundation from 1981 to 1996. Rowntree Mackintosh was later purchased by Nestlé.

At the university’s fortieth anniversary, Barron said:

“The vision of the University of York which emerged from the York Academic Trust, was realised in the highly successful plans developed by Lord James and his successors. For example, in the imaginative architectural plans of Stirrat Johnson-Marshall, and their effect on the social and pastoral elements of life on campus; in the emphasis on high standards of teaching as well as research, on which so much of the University’s success has been founded; in the support for local schools, the community and the commercial and industrial life of the region. Writing as one of the few survivors of that happy band of 1957 – 1962, 40 years on, I think they would be overjoyed.”

Sir Donald Barron passed away on the 30th December 2015, aged ninety-four. Donald Barron Court, an accommodation block on Heslington West and part of Vanbrugh College, was opened in 2008 and is named in his honour. A Thanksgiving Service will take place in the Minster on February 8th.