Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
9 December 2014
Thank you, Louise (Richardson)
It’s a great pleasure for Catherine and me to be here tonight. I don’t need to tell all of you just how much St Andrews University means to me and Catherine.
It goes without saying to all of you in this room that the education we received there was first class. Louise, you may need to close your ears at this point but it’s often said by the undergraduates of St Andrews that you leave the university in either one of two states: either married or an alcoholic.
Fortunately for Catherine and me we ended up married. But for those of you who are parents of undergraduates right now, I give you one tip: ask your son or daughter over the holidays if they know what Ma Bells is. If they answer yes, perhaps remove their wine glass out of reach.
I can’t tell you how pleased Catherine and I are that this dinner is taking place at The Met – such an iconic and beautiful venue. Standing here right now, we may be thousands of miles from St Andrews, 3,266 miles to be exact (St Andrews taught me to be precise) but New York and the United States of America more generally feels like home for a St Andrews graduate like myself. Graduates have been coming this way for centuries. This packed room testifies to the links that have existed over time and whose binds really matter.
St Andrews’ blend of academic excellence, mixed with a liberal approach to critical thought and creative reasoning, is one that both our nations, on both sides of the Atlantic, credit with importance.
In particular, St Andrews exists at the pinnacle of a noble Scottish tradition of intellectual freedom and the nurturing – in fact, I would say, flourishing – of arts and science. It feels like a place where no truth goes unquestioned and where there is much more discovering to be done in the world.
I imagine that this sense of the unchartered planet, of upturning old truth, resonates particularly strongly here in the New World. It’s extraordinary, when you come to think about it, how a 600 year old institution can do this.
By joining us here this evening, you are supporting not only a remarkable, independent institution steeped in history, but you are doing something far more important but which may not seem so obvious. You are also helping to fight cancer, to overcome heart disease, to eradicate famine, to understand violence and to seek ways to bring about peace.
You are helping to see deeper into space, to understand why humans act the way they do, to unfold the beauty of language and literature, to explore history and to conserve the wildlife in our oceans and habitats. And you just thought you were coming for dinner.
I hope you are all very proud of your support and of your links to St Andrews. Throughout its long history, St Andrews has been blessed with the support of loyal graduates, friends and supporters. It falls to us, now, to continue that proud tradition.
I hope you all have a very enjoyable evening.Fundraising