University mourns passing of alumnus and former rector Charles Kennedy
Published: 2 June 2015
Tributes have been paid from all sectors of the University community to Charles Kennedy: distinguished politician, alumnus of the University of Glasgow and a former student rector: who has died suddenly at his home in Fort William at the age of 55.
Tributes have been paid from all sectors of the University community to Charles Kennedy: distinguished politician, alumnus of the University of Glasgow and a former student rector; who has died suddenly at his home in Fort William at the age of 55.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Anton Muscatelli described him as a “hugely significant figure” in the University community.
Kennedy was the first University of Glasgow rector to be re-elected for a second term since former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli in the 1870s.
Born in Inverness in 1959, Kennedy studied Politics and Philosophy at the University, graduating MA (Hons) in 1982. He was President of Glasgow University Union from 1980 to 1981 and won the British Observer Mace for University Debating in 1982. He received an honorary doctorate from the University in 2001 and served two terms as Rector from 2008 to 2014.
Professor Muscatelli was a student two years after Kennedy and remembers being in the audience at the GUU when Kennedy was leading debates.
“I remember being hugely impressed by this person who was able to produce anecdotes and examples and speak with almost no notes. You could see he could become a great politician if he chose that route,” he said.
He also paid tribute to Kennedy’s dedication to his role representing students in his six years as student rector.
“He said publicly and wrote as well that he enjoyed representing students tremendously. He enjoyed being part of the University and we worked very well together, but most of all he enjoyed being with students and representing their views to management. I think the students held him in high regard because of the fact that he was so down to earth. Some public figures can be quite distant but Charles was not like that: he was very affable and quite humble and that is why people found him so easy to relate to.”
Kennedy stood as an independent candidate for the post of University of Glasgow Rector, stating in his manifesto that he had felt since his student days at the University that the position of Rector should not be party political. He stressed the need for a working rector who could chair the University Court, work with student bodies and be "something of a constituency MP for the campus generally". Kennedy also stated his belief that the Rector should be able to command a national platform to highlight issues affecting students and the University.
Kennedy defeated human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar, writer and broadcaster Hardeep Singh Kohli and Green MSP Patrick Harvie. He was installed as Rector on 10 April 2008 and was re-elected for a second term.
Breffni O’Connor, President of the Students’ Representative Council, said: “Charles served as Rector of the University of Glasgow for two terms and was a true friend to the students . He worked hard to protect our interests and made sure that the student voice was heard at the highest level within the University. He was a very principled politician and a great activist on our behalf, who spoke passionately about his opinions and this University, whether in the Bute Hall or in the GUU Debating Chamber. His legacy will continue as we remember his commitment to the role and passion for the students here.”
Rory Slater, GUU President, added: “Glasgow University Union is tremendously sad to hear of the passing of Charles Kennedy. As a former GUU President and Rector of the University of Glasgow,Charles was always a great friend of the Union and will be greatly missed by all. His contributions to our Union and across the wider campus will never be forgotten. The Union extends its deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”
First published: 2 June 2015