Two St Crossers Featured in Oxford's 'Diversifying Portraiture' Project


Kelsey Leonard, St Cross alumna, and Diarmaid MacCulloch, St Cross Fellow, have been included in Oxford's 'Diversifying Portraiture' Project, which asked present University students and staff to suggest outstanding figures they would like to see represented on the walls of the University. The project is funded by the Vice-Chancellor’s Diversity Fund, and in its first phase collected, catalogued and displayed existing portraits of pioneering Oxford alumni and academics whose achievements challenged the stereotypes and exclusions of their times. The portraits formed an exhibition at the Weston Library entitled ‘The full picture: Oxford in portraits’, and the works will now be moved to a permanent display in the Examination Schools.

Kelsey Leonard, Alumna 


The portrait of Kelsey was painted by her sister Courtney Leonard, an artist and filmmaker whose work is an exploration and documentation of historical ties to water, whale and material sustainability. It was a perfect choice by the Diversifying Portraiture project to select Courtney to paint the portrait of her sister Kelsey, the “water scholar” to fully capture their Indigenous culture as Shinnecock, which means “People of the Shore”.

Kelsey Leonard represents the Shinnecock Indian Nation as the Tribal Co-Lead on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body of the U.S. National Ocean Council. This planning body consisting of tribal, federal, and state entities is charged with guiding the protection, maintenance, and restoration of America's oceans and coasts. As a Shinnecock citizen and environmental leader, Kelsey strives to be a strong advocate for the protection of Indigenous waters through enhanced interjurisdictional coordination and meaningful consultation. She has been instrumental in protecting the interests of Tribes with the development of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan and building a sustainable ocean future by valuing Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge. This unprecedented partnership with Tribal Nations for regional ocean planning is a testament to tribal sovereignty but also an important step towards ensuring federal trust responsibilities. She received a Peter Benchley Ocean Award in May 2017 for ‘Excellence in Solutions’ for her contributions to the U.S. National Ocean Policy and regional ocean planning.

Kelsey Leonard explained the significance of her portrait:
“As a Native American student the opportunity to study at Oxford was one of the greatest blessings in my life, but it came with many challenges. One of the greatest challenges was leaving my family and Indigenous community to live and learn at an institution where I was the only Native student. Oftentimes, I was the first Native American many Oxford faculty and peers had ever met. After becoming the first Native American woman to graduate from the University there are now scholarships for Native students to attend Oxford where none previously existed. The portraiture project is the next step in building an Oxford that is representative of the global student body so that we may see ourselves reflected throughout the University’s symbolism. Moreover, I hope my portrait inspires other Native scholars to pursue studies at Oxford and for those who do end up walking its storied hallways I hope they find comfort in the portraits knowing they too belong and are not alone in their journey.”

Kelsey is the first Native American woman to earn a degree from the University of Oxford. She matriculated at St Cross College in 2010 and studied Water Science, Policy, and Management at the School of Geography and the Environment. Prior to attending Oxford, she received her B.A. (2010) in Anthropology and Sociology from Harvard University. After Oxford, Kelsey Leonard went on to receive her Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law. In 2016 she was recognised by the National Centre for American Indian Enterprise Development as an emerging leader in Indian Country for her leadership, initiative, and dedication. Leonard blends her Indigenous rights advocacy with water scholarship at McMaster University where she is a distinguished Philomathia Water Policy Fellow. Leonard’s current research examines the norms, dynamics and mechanisms that underlie the management structure, composition, and politics of Indigenous water governance and how Indigenous Nations bordering Canada and the United States build resiliency in response to ecological changes and altered human activities. Leonard’s work is centred in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin and investigates the interjurisdictional coordination of Indigenous Nations, the United States, and Canada for transboundary water governance.

Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, Fellow

Professor MacCulloch was selected to sit for the portrait in recognition of his achievements and contributions to the University of Oxford and to academia. One of Britain’s leading public historians, he is an accomplished and experienced author, broadcaster, and LGBTQ rights campaigner, whose most recent TV series ‘Sex and the Church’ explored Christianity’s shaping of western attitudes to sex, gender and sexuality.

He has written extensively on Tudor England; his biography Thomas Cranmer: a Life (Yale UP, 1996) won the Whitbread Biography, Duff Cooper and James Tait Black Prizes. More recent publications from Penguin/Allen Lane have included Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490-1700 (appearing in the USA as The Reformation: a History), and A History of Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years (in the USA, Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years), which won the 2010 Cundill Prize; his latest book is Silence: a Christian History. He is working on a biography of Thomas Cromwell. He was knighted in 2012.

Speaking to Cherwell, Diarmaid said of his selection:
"I was delighted and surprised to be included in this list, since, as an elderly white male, I’m not the most obvious person for a diversification project. But apart from being relieved at this proof that I’m not part of the establishment after all, I’m pleased by it because it’s a gesture of gratitude. 
A major strand in my career has been to live my life as a gay man who can’t see that there is any issue to get worried about. When male homosexuality was decriminalised in a limited way in 1967, I was fifteen, and gay teenagers were invisible in a society which seemed terrified of the whole subject or treated it as a subject for tribal jokes to marginalise the vulnerable. If I’ve given any self-confidence or hope to any young person simply by being there in public, then I will be thankful for a job well done.”

Diarmaid MacCulloch was photographed by Joanna Vestey, an Oxford-based photographer known for her portraiture and documentary work.

Ella Bedrock

Monday 22 January 2018