Ceremonies bring back memories 50 years on for University’s first graduates

The University of Sussex is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first graduation ceremony by inviting seven of the original 38 graduates back on stage this summer.

Roger Daw 1964 and 2014Among those joining the graduation procession at Brighton’s Dome next week (8-11 July) is 1964 graduate Roger Daw.

”RachelRachel Semlyen graduated at the first ceremony in 1964. Her most distinctive memory is of “the gown with the synthetic fur hood, which my parents insisted on buying for me".

Among those joining the faculty procession at Brighton’s Dome next week (8-11 July) is Roger Daw, who will also meet some of the University’s 3,000 new graduates. 

Compared to the media interest and Royal Pavilion dinners that marked their arrival when the University opened in 1961, Roger remembers the 1964 graduation in Falmer House on campus as “a low-key affair with modest news coverage”. Roger’s most distinct memory is of a “strawberry tea on the lawn outside Falmer House”. 

After completing his degree, Roger continued his role as President of the Sports Federation within the Students’ Union, and embarked on a Certificate of Education at Sussex – a move that shaped his subsequent teaching career. He says: “Sussex helped me to enter teaching with a firm belief in opening young people’s minds in the broadest way possible”. 

Rachel Semlyen, one of the first secretaries of the Students’ Union in 1961–62, was also present at the first ceremony in 1964. Her most distinctive memory is of “the gown with the synthetic fur hood, which my parents insisted on buying for me but which I have never worn since”. 

Although the fundamental characteristics of graduation remain the same, the low-key occasion described by Roger and Rachel is a far cry from this year’s grand event at the Brighton Dome, where the ceremonies have been held since 2002. 

Graduation is now a global event, with families and friends travelling from all over the world to take part. The most recent set of ceremonies, in January 2014, was watched live online by viewers in more than 50 countries worldwide. 

To celebrate outstanding contributions in a variety of areas of endeavour, the University will also award seven honorary degrees during the course of the seven separate ceremonies:

  • composer George Fenton, best known for his film scores and music for television such as the BBC nature documentary series ‘The Blue Planet’ and ‘Planet Earth’
  • Dr Chryssa Kouveliotou, who joined the University of Sussex in 1975 to study for a Masters in Astrophysics and is now a senior scientist working at NASA
  • documentary filmmaker Olivia Lichtenstein, who took her degree in Russian at Sussex in 1975
  • 1975 Sociology graduate Dame Jil Matheson, who will retire this summer from her role as the UK’s National Statistician
  • Mark Pieth, Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Basel in Switzerland, who chaired an independent governance committee that in April 2014 “strongly advised” the world football’s governing body, FIFA, to carry out fundamental reform in order to regain its credibility after a series of scandals
  • Professor Sir Michael Rutter, the UK’s first Professor of Child Psychiatry in 1973, who gave the keynote address at the official opening of the University’s Rudd Centre for Adoption Research and Practice in March 2014
  • Michael Semple, who graduated from the University’s School of African and Asian Studies in 1982 and is now one of the West’s most respected experts on Afghanistan.