Laureation Address: Sir Ewan Brown

Wednesday 30 November 2016


Laureation by Professor James Naismith, Wardlaw Professor in the School of Chemistry

Chancellor, it is my privilege to present for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Sir Ewan Brown.

Today we honour Sir Ewan Brown, who as plain Ewan Brown walked across this stage, knelt as you all have, was capped and graduated as a Master of Arts in 1963 from this University, followed a year later from the then Queen’s College Dundee, part of the University of St Andrews, with a Bachelor of Laws. On both occasions, he sat through Principal Sir Malcolm Knox’s graduation addresses. You too will hear a graduation address that the Principal has worked hard on in order to find the right blend of inspiration and profundity to set you on your way and to remember St Andrews by. Graduating is a life event that you won’t forget, however the words of the graduation address for most graduates fade with time; in my case about two minutes after walking out of McEwan Hall in Edinburgh. Perhaps because his graduations were livelier (he will tell you why) the younger Ewan must have burned the addresses into his heart. I know this, for Ewan has indeed remembered St Andrews and lived a life that is defined by success, generosity and service.

Ewan hails from St John’s Toun where he attended Perth Academy. He came down the Tay to St Andrews in 1960 with a £25 per annum bursary. Perhaps he can tell us what £25 bought in those days, but I doubt it allowed him to indulge his only known vice, that of fast cars. Ewan was one of our most talented students, winning the class medal in both the Jurisprudence and Forensic Medicine class.

After graduation Ewan qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967 and in 1969 moved to the newly created merchant bank, Noble Grossart where in 1971 he became an Executive Director; a post he held until his retirement in 2003. Noble Grossart has been a great Scottish success story and built a global reputation. The long list of Directorships and public offices of Trusts that Ewan has held include Chair of Lloyds TSB Scotland, Lloyds Bank Director, Chair of Scottish Rugby Educational Trust and Master of the Merchant Company of Edinburgh. Ewan has been a vocal and effective advocate for Scotland’s business, finance and professional service sectors. He is a Fellow of, and served as Treasurer of, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s national academy of science and letters. His contribution to Scotland’s economic, intellectual and public life was recognised with a CBE in 1996. It is a career of achievement by a graduate that is worthy of our admiration.

I want to welcome another graduate, Ewan’s wife Christine who joins us today with their daughter Kirsty.

Ewan has given his skills to the benefit of wider society, particularly the Arts. He has been a long-standing supporter of the Scottish National Gallery, being awarded the Paolozzi medal for his philanthropy. The Scottish Government relied on his advice and leadership as it reshaped public funding of the arts. For nearly ten years, Ewan chaired the executive board of the Edinburgh International Festival. The Festival is the premier arts event in Scotland and during Ewan’s time it became arguably the most significant festival in the English speaking world. It was partly in recognition of this service that Ewan was knighted in 2014.

laureation-naismith-brown-mainbodyAmongst all these commitments, Ewan has never forgotten the University of St Andrews. He has been an exceptional and sustained financial benefactor to the University, contributing to many projects and funding the Ewan and Christine Brown scholarship. In addition to this generosity, Ewan has been, what I can only describe as, a workhorse to the University. He joined Court, the governing body, in 2006 becoming the Senior Governor shortly afterward – a post he held until his retirement from Court in June this year. Ewan chaired the panel that attracted Principal Louise Richardson to St Andrews and together they formed a formidable partnership. They drove the hugely successful 600th celebrations that saw our global reputation begin to catch up with the reality of our excellence. Ewan chaired the 600th fundraising campaign that has transformed St Andrews’ approach to philanthropy. Louise, now Vice-Chancellor at Oxford, always spoke of her admiration for Ewan and how fortunate the University was in having his service. Although she did ask me to remind him today that he still owes her a pair of shoes that along with the University car he accidently took leaving her stranded and shoeless in Edinburgh.

Ewan’s commitment to the University is legendary: he never declined a request for assistance even giving up a ticket to watch Andy Murray at Wimbledon because we needed his help. As a Court member, I saw at first hand his commitment to, love for and pride in the University of St Andrews. Ever to be the best, Ewan has been the embodiment of our motto.

Ewan, I don’t flatter myself that my comments will be as memorable as Principal Knox’s but they do represent the heartfelt admiration and gratitude of not just me, but all those who have worked with you at St Andrews.

Chancellor, in recognition of his inspirational and transformational commitment to Scottish public life, to the Scottish arts community and this, his and our, University. I invite you to confer on Sir Ewan Brown the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

For further information, contact the University of St Andrews press office on 01334 46 2530 or via [email protected].

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