Graduation address - Aaron Quigley
Thursday 23 June 2011
Chancellor, honoured guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen
Firstly, I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to all of
our new graduates. We all join you in celebrating your accomplishments
and for graduating from the University of St Andrews today. You join a
distinguished Alumni who over the past six centuries have taken what
they learned here to help change the world. Yes, we have many famous
alumni including nobel prize winners, great writers, politicians and
even the founder of the Presbyterian church John Knox. However, we also
count amongst our alumni many teachers, mathematicians, medics and
members of the armed forces who have each had an important impact on our
world, as I hope will you.
It’s easy to forget while in such auspicious surrounding that all of
our graduates have sat where you are today. From the nurse to the nobel
prize winner, or indeed the prince to the programmer, they each had the
same potential as you do now, to make our world a better place. And just
like you, they were all surely thinking, “What do I do now”? However,
before we look forward to your future, let us take a moment to look back
and to offer three notes of thanks.
Firstly, I would like to thank you, our graduates. On behalf of my
colleagues, I thank you for coming to your early morning lectures, for
being prepared for your tutorials, for submitting your assignments on
time, and for studying diligently for your exams. We live in an often
jaded world, so it’s always refreshing to us to meet students who are
passionate about learning. This might be the second years in an early
morning tutorial arguing over the finer details of a question, to a
class of fourth years presenting their final projects and thesis. It has
been our great privilege and pleasure, to share this journey of
learning with you.
One of my colleagues once described the job of academics as both
coach and umpire. For the most part we have been your coach and I hope
we gave the best of ourselves in your learning experience. Personally, I
think this is why academics are here, we want to educate you so that
you are equipped with the skills sets, graduate attributes and the
ability for analytical thinking that is needed in the wider world.
Of course, we have also been your umpire from time to time, and I
hope you will agree that maintaining high standards is a hallmark of
this University. I've worked in half a dozen Universities around the
world, and I can assure you, that the commitment to teaching excellence
and standards I have seen here, is beyond compare. This is certainly why
this University is consistently ranked among the United Kingdom’s top
ten, across all the university league tables. However today, we are
neither coach nor umpire, your time on the team is over, you are
finished this stage in your journey, be proud of what you have achieved.
Today, we step back, while you step forward.
Second, and on your behalf, I would like to thank the staff of the
University of St Andrews and the people of this fine town. They are very
proud of you, and justifiably so. Last year I attended the golf
graduation and I sat in the back of the balcony. Beside me sat two
retired teachers from Dundee who live in town, and these ladies told me
that they often come to graduations here, as do many of their friends.
Perhaps they are here today? This rare pride the townsfolk have in the
University and in our graduates is unparalleled in my experience and is a
testament to the great love and respect the people of St Andrews, Fife
and Scotland have for this ancient University.
Now, some people describe a University as an iceberg, with 90% of it
hidden from view. Myself, I prefer to think of it as a Swan, graceful
and elegant above the water but madly kicking it's webbed feet below. In
your time here, you have interacted with many of the academic staff but
it's often too easy to forget the hundreds of general staff of St
Andrews who help administer degrees, run the library and IT systems,
clean and cook meals or maintain our fine buildings. To each of these
members of staff, I pay particular thanks for their often unseen
efforts. At the risk of labouring the metaphor, then if the University
is a swan, she is best thought of inflight, soaring, majestic, with all
her parts equally important to help keep her balanced and aloft, not
simply floating down the river!
My final note of thanks goes to your family; your parents and
partners, your brothers and sisters, or your boy-friend or girl-friend.
They have been with you, supported you, loved you and cared for you
every step of the way. I’m certain you appreciate the sacrifices they
have made for you, and I would like to thank them for their support.
Remember to thank them today, or if they cannot be here, then in the
And so, onto your future. After being invited to give this graduation
address I did extensive research on what is involved in one, I am after
all an academic, research, it's what we do! So along with pithy quotes
and punchy tales I discovered that no one really thinks you will recall
anything I say! So, together, lets try to change this status quo. I’m
going to ask you to remember only one thing, and it’s this, invest your
time wisely. I will be asking questions afterwards in the quad, so I do
suggest you remember it! Let me say it again, invest your time wisely.
For whatever future you have in mind, your time is all you have that
is truly yours, so don't waste it. You have only one life to live, so
live it well. Follow your dreams and don't let life grind you down.
Don't waste your time in life. Don't waste your time doing a job you are
not passionate, proud and interested in. Live a life true to yourself,
and not the life others expect of you. For no matter what changes in
technology, society or government brings, it’s up to you to invest your
time so that your dreams don't go unfulfilled.
Of course, you have already made one good investment here in your
education. This is an investment which has equipped you for the
challenges ahead and will pay off over the rest of your life. Of course
it means you have the skills and knowledge to apply for different jobs,
or to go onto further postgraduate study. However, it's the less obvious
returns which will pay off in more rewarding ways. Every decision that
you make, every choice presented to you now, can be viewed through this
prism of critical thinking and a mindset your education has equipped you
I would hope our honorand today Dame Stephanie Shirley agrees with
the advice on investing your time wisely. She has spent much of her life
investing her time carefully in her work and philanthropic efforts.
And so to conclude, enjoy the rest of your day, thank your family and
make sure to reintroduce them to this wonderful University and town. Be
proud of what you have achieved in your time here. And please remember
to come back and visit, or tell us how you are doing in life.
As you leave Younger Hall today, onto the next step of your journey, I
say again, your most precious asset is your time, spend it wisely,
spend it well.