Speech: University of Surrey Undergraduate Graduation Ceremony, 17 July 2018

Vice-Chancellor’s Opening Address to Graduates from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Pro- Chancellor, Chair and members of the University Council, University staff, Distinguished Guests, our Graduands, and ladies and gentlemen: Good afternoon!

As President and Vice-Chancellor, I am delighted to extend a warm welcome to you all on this very special day for our students and their families, in celebrating their academic achievements.  It gives me great pleasure to welcome today’s graduating class from the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

I am also honoured to welcome our guest speakers today, Ms Abbie Hutty, and Mr Sam Bryanton.

To all graduands, I offer my warmest congratulations on your academic successes – the culmination of many years of dedication and hard work by our students…. with some help along the way.

You may be familiar with the expression, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ It means that many people present in this room and beyond, through their financial or emotional support, have made your success possible today.

So, as a gesture of gratitude, Graduands, please stand and give your lecturers, families and friends a round of applause and cheers! Be loud and passionate!

Many say graduations are about the end of the beginning, which is quite true. University education is all about enriching and transforming lives – your own, and others’.  It is also a preparation for life.

During your studies, you have learned to reason, to develop original ideas, to find confidence in yourself, and to think differently. Importantly too, you have made connections with your fellow students and the community broadly.

And yet, the best for you still lies ahead. Imagine that when you cross the stage and enter the next phase of your lives, you will be stepping into a world full of possibility. You should dream big and bold dreams.

Now, your challenges may be different, and in many ways, more interesting.

You will face the daunting tests, setbacks, and rich rewards of a life fully engaged in the world. You will find inspiration from your belief in yourself, your curiosity about the world, and your love of what you do.

And so, when you are challenged to your very limits, or facing the unknown, remember that, ‘A ship in the harbour is safe – but that is not what ships are built for’.

Very few people start out ‘extraordinary’. It’s the extraordinary acts we do that elevate us. Of these, everyone is capable, every day.

For example, today’s guest speaker Abbie Hutty is a Surrey graduate in Mechanical Engineering. She is now a Senior Spacecraft Structures Engineer at Airbus Defence and Space. Through her work on the ExoMars rover vehicle, she is part of the European Space Agency’s mission to search for the existence of past or present life on Mars.

Abbie’s outreach work has brought the importance of engineering to life for potential students, and the public more broadly.

Such people – like Abbie, like yourselves – blaze trails, and change lives.

And so my wish for you today is that you embrace all that life can offer. Launch yourself upon the world; get it wrong; get it right; learn things; change; grow; and above all, be happy.

Graduands, you have enriched Surrey with your presence, your work, your thought, and your character. And now, you are about to join more than 112,000 University of Surrey alumni, who are also connected to us. These are people with whom you can share your experiences and challenges, and from whom you can further your knowledge.

This sense of belonging is one of Surrey’s most significant legacies to our Alumni.

It creates a strong community whose benefits flow both ways: Surrey’s stock strengthens and grows as our Alumni impact society with their achievements. In turn, your support of the university will enhance our ability to educate new generations of young people who will push the boundaries of knowledge even further.

Our Surrey Alumni network @foreverSurrey, is dedicated to supporting and helping you stay connected with each other, and with the University. As you start the next stage of your journey, never forget that the University of Surrey is forever your intellectual home.

I would like to leave you with a quote from Mark Twain: ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out WHY.’

On that journey– good luck – and come back – and show us what you have found.

I hope you will stay in touch.  I wish you great happiness, and I wish you great success.

Thank you.