Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Naked Professor: 644 Robed Students, and a Midweek Congress

Last Friday should have been a duvet day. Apparently, many organisations in the UK and the US provide for duvet days as part of their terms and conditions of employment. Having conducted an exhaustive search of our University HR web site, it appears I work for an organisation that doesn’t do duvet days. However, it didn’t matter on last Friday. Last Friday was my summer holiday. My dear wife decreed that I was to stay in bed beyond 05.00, with computers, iPads, and mobile phones banned from the bedroom. 

At 03.21, I awoke shiveringly cold, with not an inch of duvet covering my naked body. My wife, on the other hand was completely wrapped up in the duvet, and resembled a cocoon on her side of the bed. She looked like the silk cocoon the duvet had been made from. I'd brought the silk duvet on a visit to China, the original home of silk fabric. I'd been to a store that showed the entire silk making process. The part I recall best is the way 4 or 5 women pulled out a gossamer thin sheet of silk which when layered with others formed the duvet. It was a fascinating sight, an expert technique undertaken like an art form. It provided a wonderful image for my memory bank.

Likewise, last Monday, at 10.30 I walked onto the stage at the Lowry Theatre, Salford Quays, for the first of our 2015 University graduations ceremonies. The stage was packed (130 colleagues) and the auditorium was filled to the rafters with the student’s families and friends. It was an awesome sight, and I could almost taste the electric expectant atmosphere. Truly it was another wonderful image for my memory bank. Regular readers of this blog know that graduation ceremonies are often a bitter sweet experience for me. I am ashamed to say that I find the pronunciation of some names a real challenge.

For some reason this year was different. I felt at ease and really enjoyed myself. It was the 8th graduation ceremony for me to present our students, whereas for our Chancellor and VC, and for many of our students, it was their first. Our School had 2 ceremonies during which 644 students received their awards. Grandson Jack watched the first ceremony on-line and got a wave from the Chancellor in ceremony 2 when I made a speech as a Council member: ‘Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman, and Jack, my 3 and a bit year old grandson who wanted a wave’… …and Jackie Kay, our new Chancellor, very kindly obliged. He was pleased and has plagued his mum to watch the Youtube version over and over again. 

Midweek saw our Summer School Congress. There were a number of serious challenges in our external world we needed to explore as a School, and I was pleased given the time of the year, that 75 colleagues turned up to take part. It wasn’t all about the challenges we face though – my colleagues are very creative, highly motivated and fully committed to making a difference. So it was great, in a week of celebration of our student’s achievements to also acknowledge and celebrate our colleagues many achievements. Unlike the start of my Friday Duvet Day, I was left feeling warm all over.