We have just held a wonderful celebration evening for Lord Phillips of Sudbury to thank him for his contribution to our success over the past 11 years.
I thought I would use this blog to share the speech I gave last night:
“As you all know, Lord Phillips stood down as Chancellor of the University of Essex after presiding over his eleventh Graduation this July. We are here this evening to celebrate his outstanding contribution to the University with a special ‘thank you’ event with friends and colleagues.
“Lord Phillips has enjoyed a distinguished legal career spanning over 50 years. He qualified as a solicitor in 1964 (the year this University admitted its first students) and founded law firm Bates, Wells & Braithwaite in London, in 1970. He served as a senior partner there until 1998, and still continues as a consultant.
“He has specialised in charity law, and founded three national charities. These include the Citizenship Foundation, of which he remains President. He also co-founded and chaired the Legal Action Group, a legal aid charity, and co-founded and served as President of the Solicitors’ Pro Bono Group.
“Lord Phillips was made a life peer in 1998 in recognition of his charitable work. In Parliament, where he remains active, he has championed citizen/state relations and led opposition to the Identity Cards Bill.
“In addition to his legal and parliamentary commitments, Lord Phillips is also a well-known broadcaster. From 1976 until 2002, he appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jimmy Young Show as the “Legal Eagle”, giving advice to the show’s listeners. He also presented current affairs programmes for London Weekend Television and Anglia.
“This is an extraordinary life … lived to the full … but on top of all this we have been privileged to have Lord Phillips as the Chancellor of our University for 11 years. In his period as our Chancellor, Lord Phillips has been a great Champion of the University and has served us with great distinction.
“From the beginning Lord Phillips has been what Sir Ivor Crewe described as “an active and activist” Chancellor … taking a genuine and personal interest in the success of the University and the well being of our students.
“Every task has been undertaken with energy and dedication, and duties have ranged widely from escorting the Duke of Edinburgh during the Queen’s visit for our 40th Anniversary, to helping student and staff volunteers clear out a duck pond at a primary school in Langham. Clearing out a duck pond I can imagine – but I daren’t imagine the mischief that Lord Phillips and the Duke of Edinburgh might have got up to!
“As Chancellor Lord Phillips visited every department to learn about their education and research activities. He talked to academics, support staff and students. And he repeated his departmental tours every couple of years. Lord Phillips was especially interested in the ‘student experience’ – before the phrase was invented he wanted to know what it felt like to be a student at Essex and regularly shared his thoughts with the Vice-Chancellor on how we might do better.
“Lord Philips has also shown great interest in Southend and Loughton and has taken time out of a very busy schedule to visit our departments based there on a number of occasions.
“He has been a strong advocate for the University in so many ways, including speaking out against aspects of the new immigration rules which threatened our international recruitment, and which created the impression that overseas students were unwelcome in the UK.
“Lord Phillips has enjoyed presiding over the University’s Court which comprises our supporters and friends in the region and which meets annually. He regularly encouraged Court members to offer work experience opportunities to Essex students. He championed Court members offering hospitality to international students in the form of visits to spend time with their families and led by example with Penny hosting our overseas students.
“Lord Phillips first presided over Graduation at Essex in 2003 when we had just six ceremonies over two days and a total of 1,500 students graduating. Over the years he has personally congratulated over 20,000 graduating Essex students, which means nearly 20,000 handshakes over the years.
“He has also presented Honorary Graduates with their degrees, rubbing shoulders with celebrities such as Annie Lennox, Juliet Stevenson, Griff Rhys Jones, as well as colleagues from Parliament such as John Bercow, Lord Dyson and Baroness Joan Bakewell.
“His graduation speeches were characterised by two themes – the importance of strong values, and of giving something back to society.
“Whilst these are serious messages the hall mark of an ‘Andrew Philips’ Graduation was always improvisation and laughter to remind us that a celebration should be fun! Who can forget his pirouette with a graduate, his ability to ‘high five’ on demand and his gentle encouragement of rival ‘wooping’ between our East 15 and Literature Film and Theatre Studies graduands – someone always making sure they graduated together on the same day.
“Please could you raise your glasses for a toast to Lord Phillips.
“Lord Phillips, may I thank you on behalf of current staff, students, and our alumni for your immense contribution to our development and success over the past 11 years. It’s been our privilege and our good fortune, to have you as our Chancellor, and we wish you the very best for what I’m sure will be a future devoted to public service as ever.”