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Sir Ian Wood reflects on 17 years as RGU chancellor as he gets set to bow out

Sir Ian Wood

Sir Ian Wood is presiding over his final group of summer graduations before he steps down as chancellor of Robert Gordon University after 17 years.

Sir Ian has held the ambassadorial role at the university since 2004 and has “thoroughly enjoyed” working to enhance its reputation across the world.

He said: “I’ve enjoyed the contact with the the staff at the university, I’ve met some really great people along the way. The university itself is fantastic, probably one of the top newer universities in Scotland, and the campus is superb.

“Being named Scottish University of the Year was especially a really good, positive achievement and I’m very happy to be involved.”

“I would visit two or three times a year with different classes and faculties, I really enjoyed that time with the students. I’ll miss working with young people and helping getting them involved in philanthropy and giving them advice on how to work their way through life.”

Final graduations

The RGU summer graduations are a standout event in the academic calendar that would usually take place at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen. However, they were forced to move online when the pandemic hit, which Sir Ian said has been “extremely frustrating”.

He added: “I really do enjoy the graduations, although as I get older it gets harder and harder to stand for two hours tapping people on the head.

“They are a big deal so not being able to hold them is very sad, particularly for the students and their families.

“The moment mums and dads watch the students walk across the stage has been lost, but I must say the university has done a very good job with the virtual graduations.”

Once restrictions ease in Scotland, Sir Ian is hopeful that a “big gathering” can be organised for the students who missed out on an in-person graduation.

“I am hopeful that when things get back to normal there can be a big gathering for all the students to celebrate graduation in person,” he said.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is an honorary graduate of RGU.

Sir Ian also highlighted the many “super” honorary graduates that have been awarded at RGU during his time there.

He said: “We have had lots of really great people that we are proud to have as honorary graduates, including Terry Waite, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Dame Katherine Grainger and Nicola Benedetti, who put on a fantastic violin concert at the graduation.”

Many proud moments

The departing chancellor shared some of his standout moments from the past 17 years and some of the things he is proud that the university has achieved.

The university’s high employment rate, visits from Royals and a foreign president stopping by all ranked highly on his list of fondest memories.

“I have enjoyed graduating over 25,000 students and I’m proud that the university has a very high employment record. It has been at the forefront of introducing graduate apprenticeships and it now has its own energy efficient institute,” he said.

“We opened the Sir Ian Wood building with the Princess Royal in 2015, Prince Harry visited in 2016 to learn more about street sport and the president of Mexico visited three years ago for work in the energy sector.

Prince Harry’s visit to Streetsport at Robert Gordon University in 2016.

“I have worked really closely with five principals and I like to think I’ve been some help during some of the trickier times, it’s not really the job a chancellor usually does, but inevitably with my connections in Aberdeen I have been able to provide some help.

“RGU has changed hugely over 17 years, but the the key thing is, good quality and dedicated staff, a well managed and well run university.

“There is also a gathering of primary pupils once a year, and I loved that, it was great fun. Most of my time I spend doing serious things and I quite enjoy doing some fun things as well, and that was one of the things I really enjoyed.”

New chancellor

Dame Evelyn Glennie will take over the post from Sir Ian Wood who was presented her own honorary graduate award by him in 2016.

Sir Ian Wood says Dame Evelyn Glennie ‘will do a great job’ in the role of chancellor.

He said: “It’s time for me to go, I’ve been there too long. I’m happy to pass it on and Dame Evelyn Glennie will do a great job. She is a very lovely lady who I have known for quite a long time, so I will keep in touch and help her in any way I can.

“I’m happy with what we’ve done and I know the university will go from strength to strength.”

To see the Robert Gordon University Graduation list 2021, click here.

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