Teaching area to be named in honour of Charles Kennedy

Published: 9 June 2015

A memorial fund has been set up to commemorate the life of alumnus and former rector Charles Kennedy.

A memorial fund has been set up by the University of Glasgow to commemorate the life of alumnus and former rector Charles Kennedy.

It was launched officially at a service of commemoration, held at the University's Bute Hall to honour Charles' contribution to the University and public life.

The aim of the fund is to support the naming of a major teaching area or lecture theatre in his honour within the planned new Learning and Teaching building at the University.

The initiative has been given the full support of the former Liberal Democrat politician’s family.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Anton Muscatelli said: “We feel that this would be a fitting and permanent tribute to Charles’ life and work at the heart of a student-centred building.”

The service commenced with an Academic Procession, piped in by Donald Campbell, who retired earlier this month as the Principal's official piper, and his brother, Alastair Campbell, a close friend of Charles Kennedy.

Tributes were paid by, among others, Professor Muscatelli, and the Presidents of the Glasgow University Union and the Students Representative Council, Rory Slater and Breffni O’Connor.

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell read the words of a psalm, Divine Majesty and Human Dignity. He was followed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, a graduate of the university, who read from St John's Gospel, Jesus the Way to the Father

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie read the poem Thankful I Am, by Leslie Scrase. Mr Rennie's predecessor, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, paid tribute to Charles' political career.

Brian McBride, a member of the University Court and former CEO of Amazon UK, also paid a personal tribute. He was a close friend of Charles and was a President of GUU in 1975 when, as a judge of the English Speaking Union, he first met Charles when he was a school debater.

Tributes have been paid from all sectors of the University community since Charles Kennedy died suddenly at his home in Fort William at the age of 55.

Professor Muscatelli has described Charles Kennedy as a “hugely significant figure” in the University community. Charles 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, he 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 Charles and remembers being in the audience at the GUU when he 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 Charles 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.”

Charles 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". He also stated his belief that the Rector should be able to command a national platform to highlight issues affecting students and the University.

Charles 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 in 2011, beating the writer A.L. Kennedy.

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."

Media Enquiries: liz.buie@glasgow.ac.uk / 0141 330 2702

First published: 9 June 2015

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