Skip to main content

Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE: oration

Read Professor Rob Briner's oration on Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE for the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in June 2014.


Chancellor, it is my pleasure to introduce Professor Sir Cary Cooper CBE, Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, Lancaster University Management School and Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Cary was born in Los Angeles to Ukrainian and Romanian parents. These experiences of immigrant life both in the US and later here in the UK, where he is now a citizen, perhaps help to explain his extraordinary drive, achievements and desire to improve the quality of people’s working lives.

One of his first jobs was as a social worker in the deprived Watts neighbourhood of LA. At the same time he successfully completed an MBA at UCLA. And it was on this course that Cary was first bitten by the behavioural science bug which was to become the focus of all his subsequent research.

It was also at this time that he identified the first of his many research interests. T-Groups (or therapy groups) were at the time a popular intervention which aimed to improve participants’ understanding of themselves and others. Cary’s investigations focused on the effects of such groups on individuals in the workplace. He was encouraged by his UCLA professors to go to the University of Leeds to continue this work with social psychologist Peter B Smith.

The move to Leeds was the start of his life-long love of the UK and, in particular, a love of British social values embodied in the National Health Service and the Welfare State. Cary’s early experiences as a social worker in LA had shown him how the absence of such services could have devastating effects on the sick and vulnerable.

He then moved with Peter B Smith to the University of Sussex and then onto another post at the University of Southampton. And it was there that he got a call from the Manchester School of Management at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. He took a day trip to Manchester for what he thought was going to be an informal chat and a tour of the campus. It turned out to be a very formal interview quickly followed by a job offer. He accepted and moved to Manchester where he soon became, as he continues to be, a loyal supporter of Manchester City, showing yet again his natural empathy for the underdog. He was to remain at UMIST for many years, quickly becoming one of its youngest Professors, taking over as Head of the School of Management and eventually becoming Deputy Vice-Chancellor. And, just a few years ago, the University of Lancaster beckoned with new exciting challenges.

Cary already has several connections to the University of Bath and the School of Management having been one of our external examiners and co-authoring one of the first of his many books with Iain Mangham who was a Professor in the School for many years. Since that time he has published or edited over 160 books and many hundreds of journal articles on topics including group processes, mergers, women at work, well-being and stress.

As important as this research has been in terms of adding to the body of social science knowledge about behaviour at work this has never been enough for Cary. He believes passionately that our research should be used to help and improve the well-being of individual workers, organisations and communities. As an enthusiastic and effective communicator, translator and disseminator of research findings, his writing, media work and presentations have reached out not only to managers and practitioners but also to governments, policy-makers and the general public. He is also a prolific user of Twitter having posted over 11,000 tweets and attracting as many followers.

Cary is also a builder. Throughout his career he has helped to create journals, book series and professional bodies – in particular the British Academy of Management. Outside academia, as a social entrepreneur, he has helped to build institutions which promote social and management science for the public good – most notably as a former Chair of the Sunningdale Institute as part of the National School of Government and currently in his role as Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Chancellor, I present to you Cary Cooper who is eminently worthy to receive the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

Professor Rob Briner

On this page