Internationally-renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie has been named the new chancellor of Robert Gordon University (RGU).
The double Grammy Award winner will take up the post when Sir Ian Wood stands down in July.
As chancellor, Dame Evelyn will play a “crucial” ambassadorial role raising the profile of RGU in Scotland and internationally.
She will hold the position for a four-year term, with the option to extend it by another four after.
Dame Evelyn was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Music degree by RGU in 2016 – which is one of more than 100 major awards she has gathered during her career.
She is widely regarded as the first person in history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist.
Growing up on a north-east farm, she began to lose her hearing at eight years old, to the extent she soon became profoundly deaf, but was drawn to drumming as a way to “feel” the sound.
At 16, she gained a place at The Royal Academy of Music in London, graduating with an Honours degree three years later.
She was awarded an OBE in 1993 and was recently appointed the first female president of charity Help Musicians.
Dame Evelyn also showcased her talents at the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.
‘This is a great privilege’
She said: “It has been my life’s mission to widen access to music and use it as a medium to build social cohesion.
“I also know that listening is the key to inclusion and collaboration.
“RGU shares these values and I support the university’s ambition to eliminating barriers to higher education and widening participation among underrepresented groups.”
She added: “The role of universities and higher education has never been more important as we recover the devastating impacts of the pandemic.
“RGU will have an important part to play in ensuring that society has the skills and learning necessary to enable it to thrive despite current challenges.
“I intend to build on the work done by Sir Ian Wood to enhance RGU’s reputation.
“I recognise this is a great privilege and I am proud to represent the university not just nationally but on an international stage.”
Colin Hunter, chairman of the board of governors at RGU, said: “I have had the pleasure of sharing a number of conversations with Evelyn over the past few months.
“Her values and her priorities chime absolutely with those of Robert Gordon University.
“Her story is remarkable but, more than that, she is an exceptional human being and will be an inspiration to our students and staff.”
Principal and vice-chancellor, Prof Steve Olivier, said: “Aside from being one of the world’s greatest percussionists, Dame Evelyn has dedicated her life and career to helping others, whether that’s through her association with charities or by supporting access to music and education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds – values which are synonymous with this university.”
Sir Ian prepares to step down
In November, Sir Ian Wood announced he would be stepping back from the role he has held since 2004.
In that time he has helped send tens of thousands of graduates into the world of work, and had the university’s £120m Riverside East building named after him.
He has capped a number of honorary graduates, including Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Dame Katherine Grainger and Dame Evelyn.
Sir Ian will preside over his final ceremonies in July, which will be held virtually, with a special chancellor handover to take place in person when it is safe to do so.
He said: “After a long stint as chancellor of Robert Gordon University, I suspect one of the longest served chancellors certainly in the last 100 years, I am very happy to be stepping down, particularly as my successor is to be Evelyn Glennie.
“I am absolutely delighted at her appointment. She will do it very differently from me but I know she will do it superbly and be very popular with the students.
“I very much enjoyed my period as chancellor under five different principals over my 16 years.
“I am very proud to have lived through a period of very significant change.
“RGU now has one of the finest campuses certainly in Scotland is undoubtedly one of the most successful new universities with a great governing board and a really good management team.
“The university has certainly changed in a whole range of positive ways and I am sure will continue to do so.”