The new Principal of the University of St Andrews spoke of her plans for the future during her first official speech to staff and students today (Wednesday 25 March 2009.)
Dr Louise Richardson, officially installed as Principal and Vice-Chancellor in a ceremony in St Andrews, received a standing ovation when she spoke of the importance of fighting for the future Scotland’s oldest University.
Around 1000 students, staff, alumni, guests and members of the public gathered in the Younger Hall to witness Dr Richardson’s installation as tenth Principal of St Andrews.
Wearing her robes of office for the first time, in an address entitled “Journey through continuity and change”, Dr Richardson spoke of the University’s “long and distinguished history” and her role in its future.
She said, “I am energised by the task ahead and I am deeply committed to the continued success of this extraordinary university. The past, rich, resonant and inspiring as it is, is just the platform on which we have to build the future.
“We must forge a future worthy of our past on which our successors can in turn look back with pride. There is nothing inevitable about our continued success. It would be very easy for St Andrews University to become a charming relic of Scotland’s ancient commitment to education.”
Describing current management as ‘temporary guardians’, Dr Richardson outlined the need for continued academic excellence and her commitment to making St Andrews accessible to students from all walks of life.
She said, “The first step is to be very clear about our priorities: academic excellence. That is our strength. That is our niche. If we remain focused on academic excellence we can build our future.
“To support this goal we need to recruit the best talent among our students and our staff. Whether our students come from the highlands or the lowlands, from state schools or private schools, from Kirkcaldy or Katmandu, we must recruit the most talented students and we must ensure that they can afford to study here… When these students come here we must not just help them to realise their ambitions. We must also elevate their aspirations.”
Referring to the current financial crisis, Dr Richardson spoke of the need for a University endownment as it enters its 600th year.
“It is time to build a university endowment so that future leaders of St Andrews can choose to support unfashionable ideas… If we have learned anything from the recent financial crisis it must be that we need to think about what is worthy of investment. Just imagine how much better the world would be today if just some of the billions of pounds that have evaporated over the past year had been invested in libraries, science laboratories or scholarships for poor students. Scholars have been questioning and students learning here for the past 600 years. We must ensure that they continue to do so for the next 600.”
Although founded in the 15th Century and the third-oldest university in the English speaking world, St Andrews did not appoint its first Principal with responsibility for the entire institution until 1859 when Sir David Brewster was asked to take the post.
During the ceremony, Dr Richardson was first installed as Principal by a senior member of Senate, Professor Eric Priest, then as Vice-Chancellor by University Chancellor Sir Menzies Campbell. The closing address was given by Baroness Williams of Crosby, who referred to Dr Richardson as a “bold leader, courageous researcher and brilliant teacher”.
Peppered with references to St Andrews’ “rich tapestry of tradition”, Dr Richardson referred to the “extraordinary” names associated with the history of the University.
She said, “Our traditions bind us together as a community. They bind us to our predecessors and our successors, but it is our responsibility to ensure that they do not fossilise in our hands. They must not become an immutable bundle passed like a sealed package from one generation to the next. Rather, we inherit our traditions, we infuse them with our values, and we pass them on to the next generation, subtly altered, and containing a part of ourselves.”
Following the installation ceremony, the University staged Academic Panels in the Science, Humanities and Social Sciences in Dr Richardson’s honour.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
COPIES OF THE PRINCIPAL’S SPEECH ARE AVAILABLE FROM THE PRESS OFFICE – CONTACTS BELOW.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE INSTALLATION IS AVAILABLE ONLINE AT:
NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:
IMAGES OF DR RICHARDSON AND THE CEREMONY ARE AVAILABLE FROM THE PRESS OFFICE – CONTACTS BELOW.
Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
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