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Dare to be different, says honorary graduate Stephen Fry

Sanjeev Bhaskar and Stephen Fry

Writer and comedian Stephen Fry exhorted fellow graduates to remain Sussex students in spirit - questioning, challenging and world-changing - when he addressed the University of Sussex Winter Graduation afternoon ceremony at Brighton Dome last Friday (28 January 2011).

Stephen Fry was made honorary Doctor of the University in recognition of his contributions to campaigns for people living with bipolarity, mental health issues and AIDS/HIV.

He was presented at the ceremony by fellow campaigner writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe, who is Chair of Council, the University's governing body. Simon Fanshawe praised the popular and multitalented entertainer for his personal bravery in going public about his bi-polar condition, his energy and commitment to causes and his supreme fundraising abilities.

Earlier, Fry had quipped that "Sussex just about ruled the world" and that he "couldn't be happier or prouder" about being made an honorary Doctor of the University at Friday's afternoon ceremony.

During his graduation speech, Fry urged his fellow graduates to never give up being students and to retain an intellectual curiosity about life.

Describing events in the life of his hero Oscar Wilde, Fry said: "Wilde was the prince of students, constantly exploring moral, intellectual, sexual and artistic freedom, always bohemian. Much of the splendour of the Western world would not have been possible without minds that are difficult, dark, ambiguous. The spirit of Sussex has just those qualities, never accepting the world as it is, but seeing how it could be different, which is why I am so proud to have been offered this fantastic honorary degree."  

The eminent theoretical chemist Professor David Clary, who is Chief Scientific Advisor to the Commonwealth Office, was made Doctor of Science at the morning ceremony. Currently President of Magadalen College Oxford, Professor Clary is this year the recipient of the Royal Society of Chemistry's Liversidge Award for his many contributions to his field of research. The highly respected academic recalled fondly an earlier visit to Sussex, when he saw Pink Floyd perform their album Dark Side of the Moon.

The University's Chancellor, Sanjeev Bhaskar, met  nearly 1,000 students graduating in person during the day, out of a total of more than 1350 graduating students - a 38 per cent increase in students graduating in person at the winter ceremony.

The international appeal of the University of Sussex was reflected in the number of graduating students from countries outside the UK, with family and friends travelling to Brighton from every continent. More than 120 countries are represented, including Afghanistan, Mongolia, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru and Vietnam, as well as India, China, and the United States.

Among those students graduating will be:

  • Kathy Walker who has achieved her ambition to become a maths teacher despite being profoundly deaf;
  • David Novelli, a chef and football fan who was the first member of his family to go to university, and whose research on crowd behaviour, inspired by his time on the terraces, has earned him international recognition;
  • Carmen Gheoldus who came to Sussex from Romania and held down three jobs to pay her way through postgraduate study but still found time to help fellow students and land a top job;
  • Geoffrey Whitfield, who is graduating aged 77 with a Masters degree in conflict studies following a lifetime devoted to young people and promoting peace around the world through sport.

The audience heard too from the Chancellor and the University's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, who listed the notable achievements of the University in the past year, including its rise up the league tables, the addition of state-of-the-art facilities and accommodation on campus and the significant research achievements of its academics.

Professor Farthing said: "The University is delighted to recognise the enormous achievements of Stephen Fry and Professor David Clary - and we are equally proud that the Sussex name will be represented at home and in all parts of the world by our talented and high-achieving graduates."

Notes for Editors

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Last updated: Monday, 31 January 2011