Sir Ewan Brown
Laureation Response: Sir Ewan Brown
Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen, and to fellow graduates – many congratulations to you all! I’m sure, like me, you’re thrilled and excited at what’s taking place in this beautifully orchestrated ceremony that resonates over 600 years of history and tradition.
And thank you, Jim, for your most generous laureation. If he’s still behind me, it’s a mystery because he’s heading off to New York in about five minutes, so you’ll see him departing…
But, as the American comic Bob Hope said, following a laureation like that: “I feel very humble, but I think I have the strength to fight it.”
And as for your reference to Louise Richardson and her damaged shoes, if that’s all that she’s not forgiven me for, things are not too bad. And I hope you’re watching this on webcam, Louise!
And my £25 bursary that Jim referred to, it bought me a top of the range Bush Monarch record player, together with a stack of second-hand vinyl LPs, the repeated playing of which got so far up the nose of my roommate in Sallie’s that he actually threw one of the records out of the window.
And my huge thanks to Senate also for honouring me in this way: to get an honorary degree from your alma mater is about as good as it gets. Particularly as I never thought I’d be invited back onto this stage, because, like all of you today, I behaved impeccably when I got my MA, however, the following year gave me a problem and led to a rather considerable kerfuffle that I managed to create in this hall 52 years ago…
My then girlfriend – who’s sitting up in the gallery – was graduating here and I couldn’t get a ticket, but I had determined that I would propose marriage to her and I had the engagement ring, so what to do? Well, as the ceremony began and I stood outside, I spotted that there was a second floor window open and I climbed up the drainpipe and went through the open window, which turned out to be the ladies’ toilet. I then worked my way around the back of the stage and proposed to her as she came off the stage, having graduated. The kerfuffle, as you’ll realise from what you’ve just been through today, was caused by the fact that she was quite taken aback; she paused; she then thought about the proposal for a considerable time, by which time people were building up behind her. But she eventually put on the ring, and the rest is history because we celebrated our golden wedding this year.
So, Jim, I hope this very public confession of disorderliness, the outcome of which was my ejection from the hall by an only partly amused Bedellus, will not result in the Senate asking me to return this lovely honour that I’ve received today.
And I have to say, I too have very little memory of what was said at my graduations and I think probably unfortunately you’ll find the same. What I would leave you with from my own experience are really two things: one is set your values high, and don’t depart from them; and the other one is always stop and think before you press the send button on your email and, if you have any doubts, sleep on it overnight.
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Biography: Sir Ewan Brown CBE FRSE MA LLB CA FCIBS Hon FRZS (Scot)
Sir Ewan Brown was educated at Perth Academy and St Andrews University: MA, 1963; LLB, 1964. He was an executive director of Noble Grossart, merchant bankers, for over 35 years and is now a non-executive director.
He is also a non-executive director of Stagecoach Group, chair of James Walker (Leith), a board member of Entrepreneurial Scotland and a trustee of the Royal Scottish Academy Foundation.
Past directorships have included Scottish Financial Enterprise (chair), Lloyds TSB Scotland (chair), Lloyds TSB Group, Wood Group, Scottish Widows Bank, Pict Petroleum, Scottish Transport Group and Scottish Development Finance.
Sir Ewan was senior governor of St Andrews University from 2007 to 2016, depute chair of the Edinburgh International Festival and chair of its executive committee from 2007 to 2014, chair of Creative Scotland (2009 to 2010), and Master of the Edinburgh Merchant Company from 1994 to 1995. Other previous appointments have included the Council of ICAS, the Council of Assembly of the Church of Scotland and chair of the Court of Heriot-Watt University (1996 to 2002).
He received a CBE in 1996 for services to public life in Scotland and was knighted in 2014 for services to business, public life and philanthropy.