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Memories of unusual Graduations!

Lucy Robinson & ‘Piglet’, Collingwood College,

I graduated in 2000 with a BA in Theology and was awarded my degree by Peter Ustinov who was Chancellor at the time. Also attending the ceremony, hidden up my huge black sleeve, was my toy Piglet. Piglet had been present at all my exams, had sat with me as I studied and had even visited the college bar, where he was baptised in beer at one point. 

Piglet had had the full experience of life at Durham in Collingwood College and as far as I was concerned, deserved a degree as much as I did. So, when it was my turn to shake hands, I did so quickly and then asked Peter Ustinov to shake Piglet’s hand too. He wasn’t sure whether I meant to give him the toy at first, but grinned as he shook Piglet’s paw. The atmosphere in the Great Hall of Durham Castle changed markedly after this. People smiled, the cameras zoomed in on us and my little mischief was well-received and even commented positively on by teaching staff afterwards.

Sadly, I lost my video of this as I lent it out and never got it back. Maybe another person who graduated on 7th July 2000 has a copy, I’d love to see it if they do!

James Rodgers, Grey College

I have an unusual memory from my ceremony in 2001 when I graduated with a BSc in Mathematics …… A few weeks before graduation I saw some of my maths lecturers walking around Durham, who were dressed rather more casually than they did for lectures, in shorts and sandals. I jokingly made reference to this in a letter home saying that I hoped they wouldn’t be dressed like that at my graduation ceremony.

A few weeks later at Graduation, we were all dressed very smartly and processed around Palace Green led by one of our lectures in full academic dress. The ceremony was held in the Castle and there was an amusing speech by Sir Peter Ustinov who was Chancellor. There were a few of my lecturers in there too and they were all smartly turned out in full academic dress.

After the ceremony we were invited along with our families into the Debating Chamber for refreshments with our lecturers. All the graduates and their families were obviously dressed smartly as would be expected on such a special occasion. We were initially greeted at the door by one of our lecturers who although was not in academic dress, was smartly turned out. Some more of our lecturers then entered the room and to our horror they were dressed, you’ve guessed it, rather casually in shorts and sandals! ? ?

Gillian Gee, Van Mildert College

I graduated in June 1975 in Modern Middle Eastern Studies.  Mine was the first congregation to be held that year and as my maiden name was Dickson, near the top of the alphabet, and we progressed in alphabetically, I was the first female student to have completed a degree whilst resident throughout at Van Mildert College (who only took its first female students in 1972) to be received at graduation. 

It was a glorious summer day and that afternoon I was determined, finally, to go up the tower of Durham Cathedral.  I am terrified of heights but my father went with me to encourage me along.  I made it to the top, sat immediately down on the floor of the tower viewing area, stayed there until panic had subsided a little and then went straight down again.  I saw absolutely nothing of the view but I still regard it as a memorable achievement to complete those wonderful three years in Durham.

Nothing will tempt me back up that tower again!  My daughter Rebecca, followed in my footsteps at Durham and met her boyfriend, (now husband) Eric Saunders, at Trevs. They got engaged, when he proposed at the top of the Cathedral tower many years later.

Rebecca (now always called Bee) Gee (her maiden name ) went to Trevelyan College and graduated with a BSc in Archaeology in June 2001.  Her Congregation was the last year it was held in the Castle and Peter Ustinov was the Chancellor.  The PA system went down almost as soon as Congregation started but Peter Ustinov carried on regardless, half acting out what he was saying as we could not hear too well!

Bee’s husband Eric was at Trevs too, studying Physics. He graduated a year later, in 2002, so he was in the first year group to experience the Congregation Ceremonies and Graduate in Durham Cathedral.

Graduation 2020

Everyone at Durham University is disappointed that we have had to postpone Graduation 2020 due to Covid restrictions, but degrees have still been officially awarded.
The Chancellor, Sir Tom Allen and Vice-Chancellor, have recorded a video of the official In Absentia Conferral of Degrees, which you can watch online . Why not get together with family and friends to watch the video and celebrate the achievements of our students?

Looking ahead 

We are looking forward to welcoming the Graduating Class of 2020 back to Durham in Spring next year, to celebrate with Congregation Ceremonies. For the latest information on Graduation please visit the Ceremonies Office webpage.