The Royal Albert Hall, 22 October 2014


Chair, members of Court and Council, members of the University, graduands, medallists and honoraries, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is my honour, as the new President of Imperial College London, to welcome you to Commemoration Day 2014.

Today is one of the most important days at Imperial. We are here to applaud the success of our graduands, to encourage them in the pursuit of their dreams, and to wish them lives of fulfilment and happiness.

Graduands. This is your day. It is your day to celebrate and share with your family, friends and supporters.  Enjoy this moment and remember it forever.

As you walk across the stage of this inspiring and historic hall, you will be celebrating tremendous achievement.  I hope that you take all that you have learned and experienced at Imperial College and put it to work for yourself, your family, your community and the world.

You have been challenged during your time here.  Your professors had high expectations of you, they are rigorous, and they are demanding. At times, perhaps, you were challenged to what seemed like the very limit of your capabilities.  But you met and exceeded those challenges and expectations. You left here stronger and more confident. 

Use that confidence to take risks and be creative. 

Have the strength to be appropriately and productively stubborn when the circumstances demand it.  

Your experience and capabilities will serve you well. The demands of the world are daunting.   We need well-educated leaders like you who can develop the new approaches, the clever solutions, and the compelling ideas that will guide us in the future.

You have role models in the Imperial graduates who have gone before you.  There are many examples, here are but two.

Elsie Widdowson was one of the first women to receive a Bachelor of Chemistry at Imperial College in 1928. Dr Widdowson’s research changed our understanding of nutrition to the benefit of people across the globe. 

Her work with her colleague Robert McCance formed the basis of wartime rationing and she was one of the scientists consulted on the diets to remedy the effects of starvation suffered by concentration camp victims.

Andreas Mogensen graduated in 1999 with a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering. He had the courage to be part of an international team of six astronauts who lived underground for a week, exploring a cave system in Sardinia.  Then he participated in a mission to the Aquarius undersea research laboratory and, next year, he will be launched to the International Space Station as the first Danish astronaut.

Today you become one of these alumni.  You are the inspiration for, and embodiment of, what we do at Imperial.  You join 170,000 fellow alumni who carry the common bond of an Imperial education.  You have the opportunity to inspire others to follow in your footsteps and to make the world a better place.

In addition to leading in the world, with the new approaches, the clever solutions, and the compelling ideas that will determine the future, I hope you will keep your love of learning.  Today you become a graduate, but your learning has only just begun.

You can take inspiration from your award-winning professors, such as Ten Feizi in our Department of Medicine who said in an interview about her recent lifetime achievement award:

“Throughout my research career I have felt like an explorer with this desire to discover. It’s like following a trail: almost every day, we find something new and revealing and biologically relevant.  And there is still so much more to discover!”

There is much more to discover.  Maintain your curiosity.  Remain open to new ideas.  Look for new challenges.

As you move forward, you will find Imperial College advancing too.  So please, as alumni, keep in touch, come back to visit us and inspire the next generation of students with your stories, and, I think that you will be inspired by the great developments at Imperial College London.