July 24, 2012, by David Greenaway
Graduations are very special occasions, especially for our graduates, their parents, families and friends.
I normally begin in China, where the ceremonies are always the weekend before we start in Nottingham; and end in Malaysia, where they are generally held the weekend after we finish. This year however, because of the timing of Ramadan, both UNMC and UNNC held their ceremonies on the same weekend. So Pro-Vice-Chancellor Hai-Sui Yu presided in Ningbo and I went to Malaysia.
We held two ceremonies in the Putrajaya International Conference Centre, with almost 800 of our University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus students. PICC is an iconic structure and generally impressive venue (though for intimacy and symbolism, I prefer the Great Hall on the UNMC Campus in Semeniyih).
Nevertheless, the events were a real pleasure to be involved with and our UNMC colleagues delivered an excellent experience for our students and their families. We had an Honorary Graduate at each ceremony: Engineering alumnus Mr Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, CEO of Malaysian Airlines; and former Biosciences Post-Doc Professor Deepak Pantel, until recently Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University.
In Nottingham we had 16 ceremonies. If we wanted to, we could have fewer, either by having bigger and longer ceremonies, or by our graduands moving through more quickly. Both would be a mistake. As a rite of passage and celebration, these ceremonies must be as personal and special as we can make them.
I presided at eight of the ceremonies, with Chancellor Fujia Yang presiding at the other eight. Mine included graduations of students from all five Faculties.
As always, they were inspiring and uplifting events, with the Sports Centre packed full. For most ceremonies the platforms were also full and I am grateful to colleagues for ensuring this was the case. It means a lot to our students and their families to see the academic community there in force. A full platform is also an essential ingredient of a successful ceremony, not only from the perspective of the colour and gravitas it provides to the occasion, but also in signalling that graduation matters.
Most ceremonies included Honorary Graduates, twelve in total this year. Among those honoured were alumni who have made profound contributions in their chosen field (such as Steve Holliday, CEO of National Grid); Nottingham people who have gone into the wider world and excelled (like the novelist Robert Harris); individuals who are making outstanding contributions to our community (which included Sat Bains, Michelin starred chef and pioneer of sustainability); and people whose international contributions make them special (like Baroness Valerie Amos). The full complement of Honorary Graduates can be seen here.
As always the orations prepared by a range of colleagues were superb: well researched, carefully crafted and thoughtfully delivered. They and the acceptance speeches of our Honoraries have been captured and can be viewed here.
One of the ceremonies featured two new admissions to our College of Benefactors, an accolade reserved for individuals and corporate bodies who have provided special support to the University. This year admission was granted to Santander for what they contribute to scholarships and outreach; and Air and Ground Aviation for their support to the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Trust.
Philanthropy has a key role to play in our University’s development; indeed but for the vision and generosity of Jesse Boot, we would not be on University Park. So having special support acknowledged publicly in this way is important.
Liverpool John Moores University conferred their Honorary Fellowship on me. This is the highest honour the University bestows. I am a graduate of Liverpool Polytechnic and it was a real privilege to be one of eight honoured in this way.
The ceremony was held in the stunning setting of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and the University made me and my family feel very special (including my six week old Grandson who was impeccably behaved, until I began my acceptance speech). My counterpart, Professor Nigel Weatherill was a fine host and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Alison Wild delivered a generous oration. More information can be found here.
I always enjoy graduation. The obvious joy of our graduates and pleasure of their families is infectious; the extraordinary courage of those parents who attend to receive posthumous degrees for their children, deeply moving.
My thanks go to the various teams that ensure these ceremonies are organised and delivered in such a professional way. That is fundamental to ensuring they are successful and joyous occasions for our students and their families.
Professor David Greenaway