Centre for Theoretical Cosmology News

Tree-planting ceremony in memory of Dennis Avery

The Centre for Theoretical Cosmology was very proud to host a memorial tribute honouring the life and friendship of Dennis S. Avery, who died last year. Dennis and his wife, Sally Tsui Wong-Avery, established the endowment which led to the creation of the CTC in 2007.

The ceremony, on Saturday 1st June, was attended by Sally and family members and friends, as well as the Vice-Chancellor of the University, the Master of Trinity Hall, and a number of DAMTP faculty, staff and students. Professor Stephen Hawking was not well enough to participate, but he composed a short tribute for the occasion:

“It is with regret that I am unable to attend the DAMTP tree-planting ceremony in memory of Dennis. However, my thoughts are with Sally and all those gathered here today to honour Dennis as both a great friend and as a colleague.”

Paul Shellard speaks in memory of Dennis Avery 

Paul Shellard speaks in memory of Dennis Avery. (Phil Mynott)

The plaque that was unveiled honouring Dennis Avery included a quotation from him, describing how he had endowed the study of cosmology in Cambridge to grow “the appreciation of what the Universe is and is not.” CTC Director, Professor Paul Shellard, emphasised how significant the Avery family’s gift had been to research in DAMTP:

“This cosmology centre which Dennis and Sally have endowed is uniquely situated in a mathematics department. We believe we have the creativity and technical frameworks here to postulate what the universe is or might be, but at the same time we combine this with mathematical rigour to test and winnow these ideas to determine which of them are incorrect, and so we also learn what the universe is not. Dennis’ vision and generosity were extraordinary and we shall be forever grateful for them.”

Memorial tribute to Dennis 

The Vice Chancellor and Sally Avery-Wong signing a memorandum of understanding, fulfilling Dennis Avery's wish to create the Stephen Hawking Chair of Cosmology. (Phil Mynott)

Dennis Avery was a great philanthropist who supported good causes worldwide, from AIDS orphanages in South Africa, to wheelchairs for remote villagers in Tibet. It was at the White House in 1998 that Stephen Hawking first met Dennis and became aware of his enthusiasm about recent progress in cosmology. Dennis and Sally were enormously generous in supporting Stephen’s research and legacy in Cambridge, and through their generous gifts Stephen was able to found the CTC, creating a centre of excellence to support outstanding young researchers, and workshops on frontier areas in cosmology and gravitation. They always supported the CTC anonymously, never seeking recognition for themselves.

The ceremony concluded with the planting of a dove tree in the grounds of the Centre for Mathematical Sciences, just outside the CTC pavilion.  The tree was dedicated by the Venerable John Beer, Archdeacon of Cambridge.

Tree-planting ceremony in memory of Dennis Avery