Sir Michael McWilliam was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of SOAS in 1997. Sir Michael was Director of SOAS from 1989 to 1997, and guided the School through a period of vigorous expansion, transforming the once small college into a thriving university. He was awarded a knighthood in 1996. Sir Michael continues to support the School through a generous commitment to the Annual Fund.
Sir Michael graduated from Oriel and Nuffield Colleges, Oxford, and then began his career in the Mufulira Copper Mines in Zambia. He moved to the Kenyan Treasury in 1958, which led to a career in international banking. He joined Standard Bank (now Standard Chartered) in 1966, culminating in his appointment as Group Managing Director from 1985 - 1988.
Throughout his career Sir Michael has been committed to the international arena, having held the position of Chairman at both the Royal African Society (where he is now an Honorary Vice President) and the Royal Commonwealth Society (presently Vice President).
Sir Michael is currently Chair of Cheltenham Festivals, of the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford and is a trustee of the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum. He is author of the history of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, where he was member of the board for many years.