The Chancellor at Graduation

University of Exeter Chancellor Baroness Floella Benjamin steps down after ten fantastic years

It was announced today, 2 March 2015, that Winter Graduation 2016 in the University’s Diamond Jubilee year, will be the last to be presided over by Baroness Benjamin OBE DL after ten fantastic years as Chancellor.

Baroness Benjamin said: “One of my main and most enjoyable duties as Chancellor has been attending graduation and being able to personally greet each and every student. During the last nine years, this has been exceptionally important to me and it has been a pleasure and a privilege to meet so many wonderful young people and do my best to inspire them. Due to the incredible success of the University since 2006, presiding over an expanding number of ceremonies may not be possible in the future and so, it is with great regret, that I have decided to step down as Chancellor of the University.”

It is very unusual for a university Chancellor to attend every ceremony, during graduation week, and Floella’s commitment to this undertaking is evidence of her unswerving dedication to Exeter and its students. During her nine years as Chancellor, Floella has attended 172 degree ceremonies and personally spoken to more than 35,000 graduating students; many of whose parents have been moved to comment afterwards. One such comment said “We wish to thank you in particular for your wonderful speech and your loving and sincere words to all the graduates.  Your open welcoming arms to each and every one of the graduates from beginning to end showed them, and us, how much you cared.” This personal touch has ensured her a special place in the hearts and memories of thousands of Exeter alumni.

Sarah Turvill, Chair of Council said: “The University wishes to extend its heartfelt thanks and gratitude for the incredible support Floella has provided to students, their families and the University. She is a remarkable person and will be extremely difficult to replace.”

As well as her ceremonial duties Floella regularly supported student projects and surprised and wowed guests at numerous graduation balls; changing out of her ceremonial robes and taking to the stage as the lead singer of 'Damn Right'. Former Guild President Hannah Barton said “the chants and screams from the students were amazing, Floella brought the house down.”

Baroness Benjamin adds: “My role as Chancellor at Exeter has brought me incredible joy. My philosophy has been to try and urge each and every student I have met during the last nine years to try and change the world, in their own way. I love meeting Exeter Alumni and it makes me very proud to hear about their incredible accomplishments post University. I will miss my role as Chancellor very much but have nothing but fond memories of my time here. During the last decade Exeter University has risen in the league tables, joined the Russell Group, increased its international profile and undergone an exciting period of expansion. I am now looking forward to enjoying my final year as Chancellor and celebrating the University’s Diamond Jubilee.”

Professor Sir Steve Smith Vice-Chancellor concluded: “Although Floella will be an extremely hard act to follow, the search now begins for her replacement. We will be looking for an exceptional individual to support the next phase of our growth which will focus on expanding our international research base, collaborations and partnerships.”

Date: 2 March 2015

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