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Welcome Sir Thomas
DURHAM University officially welcomed the 12th chancellor in its 180-year history this week – Seaham Harbour-born opera star Sir Thomas Allen.
Though Sir Thomas may not be such a household name as his predecessor, Bill Bryson, we believe he is an inspired choice and commend the University hiearchy on their decision, first announced last October.
Sir Thomas has won rave reviews for how he has handled his first Summer Congregations this week. His ability to hold an audience was clear for all to see.
He will also naturally do much to encourage the arts in Durham, already a thriving scene and of much benefit and enjoyment to the wider city.
The role of chancellor is ceremonial and, at the same time, much more than that, as Professor Chris Higgins noted ahead of Sir Thomas’ installation ceremony.
The Vice-Chancellor’s slightly tongue-in-cheek comparison to the role of Her Majesty the Queen is probably not too far off the mark.
Mr Bryson will undoubtedly be a tough act to follow. Friendly, easy going and personable, he went way beyond the minimum required of a chancellor, making regular visits to Durham, spending time meeting students and, of course, bringing in Hollywood star Russell Crowe to lead an acting masterclass for starstruck scholars last summer.
The US-born travel writer has the slightly odd distinction of being the only chancellor to date to retire, rather than die in office and we thank him for his work, he has been a great servant to, and ambassador for, Durham.
Sir Thomas, the stage is yours. We wish you well.