The following Loyal Address was presented by Andrew Keenan, President of the Students’ Representative Council during today’s Rectorial Installation. (Tuesday 3rd March.)
Vice Chancellor, Professors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is both my duty and my honour to present, on behalf of the student body, the Loyal Address for our new Rector, Kevin Dunion.
This event, the installation of a new Rector, is one of the oldest, rarest, but most regular and revitalising heartbeats of this ancient University. Every three years for a century and a half, the students of St Andrews have exercised their right to place a representative at the very core of University governance – to elect a Rector of their choosing to chair the University Court. It is this central role of the student body, of direct student involvement, that lends such importance to the position of Rector in the ancient universities of Scotland. Evidently, it is a position held in high regard across the nation, filled in the past by philosophers and authors, generals and explorers, journalists and inventors. Yesterday, with the Rectorial Drag and the Torchlit Procession, we saw how important the current student body holds the position, as almost a thousand gowned students gathered with flaming torches to form a procession so long that as the last of them were passing the doors of this hall, those at the front were already at the end of the pier. Today we add another worthy and distinguished name to the long and impressive record of Lord Rectors; Kevin Dunion, OBE.
Born in Bridge of Allan, and brought up in Alloa and Glenrothes, Kevin is a 1978 graduate of St Andrews, and an account of his time here thirty years ago will surely sound familiar to any current student. Kevin lived in Andrew Melville, and played football in the Sunday leagues; he later lived in DRH, or David Russell Hall, as it was then. He had classes on the Scores, and evenings in the Union; he was a member of the Students’ Representative Council, and once, he even took part in a student occupation in the Quad. But it is not just his time in this town that makes him suitable for the position of Rector; it is the accomplished and diverse career he started after his time in St Andrews. Environmental and social justice were two of the aims that have guided his life so far, aims that are held in the highest importance by many students of St Andrews, and this can be seen in the various organisations Kevin has worked for.
After graduation, Kevin first worked for Edinburgh University Students’ Association, and the civil service. However, he soon became Campaign Manager for Oxfam, which was the start of his time in the environmental and charity sectors. After Oxfam, Kevin worked for Friends of the Earth Scotland, becoming Chief Executive; he was later chosen as Chairman of Friends of the Earth International, for which he was awarded an OBE after leading delegations to the United Nations in New York and to the European Commission in Brussels. Now, working for the Government, for a university, for a leading charity, then heading a globe-straddling NGO in a role that took him across several continents, would be considered by most people an eminent career in itself. Kevin still wasn’t finished. After years of publicly supporting Freedom of Information legislation, in 2003 Kevin became Scotland’s first Freedom of Information Commissioner, a position appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Scottish Parliament. It was this appointment that completed the world-spanning circle and brought Kevin back into the fold of St Andrews, as the FoI Commission is based right here, on Doubledykes Road. To top this all off, Kevin somehow found time, in the midst of these demanding roles, to raise a family, and become a published author. The topics of his books are as wide-ranging as his CV, including a history of Cellardyke and Anstruther during the First World War, and his most famous text, about the struggle for environmental justice in Scotland, titled “Troublemakers” – a word I am sure has been used to describe Kevin many times before.
Now, I must step aside and let the man speak for himself, but first, a point. His experience as a student of St Andrews; his work in the environmental movement; his role as a steward of freedom of information; and his knowledge of, and respect for, the history of the Kingdom of Fife. It is at the confluence of these four main qualities that we find the reasons for the election of Kevin Dunion to this historic post, and that is why I am honoured to pledge the loyalty of the student body to him in his time here.
Rector, on behalf of all who study at the University of St Andrews, welcome.