Honorary Graduate: Robin Windsor

At the Suffolk Business School and Department of Arts and Humanities Graduation ceremony on 17 October, 2017, Robin Windsor became the first person to be awarded the Degree of Doctor of the University – especially exciting as this was the first award conferred from the University of Suffolk as an independent institution. Dr Suzanne Nolan was honoured to give the oration speech.

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Dr Suzanne Nolan and Robin Windsor. Photo by D. Gill.

Vice-Chancellor, the Senate of the University has resolved that the Degree of Doctor of the University be conferred upon Robin Windsor.

Dance has long been important to the culture of Ipswich, and the University of Suffolk. DanceEast began as Suffolk Dance in 1983, and the Ipswich School of Dance has been running since 1948. The University has supported dancing professionally in one capacity or another for a number of years, through a range of programmes.

Perhaps best known for his appearance on the BBC’s ever popular Strictly Come Dancing between 2010 and 2015, Robin has already achieved a huge amount competitively and professionally throughout his career.

Robin was born in Ipswich, and grew up within walking distance of where the University of Suffolk would be built almost three decades later. His father was a dance teacher at a local dance school and at the age of three, Robin was given his first lesson. His passion for ballroom was ignited. He has always loved moving to music, and he recalls how he felt he had ‘found his niche’, something that he was passionate about and drove him to succeed. Robin has always spoken of the importance of passion and love for what you do in finding a career – whether it be dancing or banking.

At the age of fifteen, Robin moved to London to make his dream of becoming a professional dancer a reality, and he worked as a competitive dancer until he was nineteen. His dedication saw him regularly train until midnight and rise again at 6am for work, and this regime saw him win numerous Championships both nationally and internationally.

From there, Robin was cast in the hugely popular Burn the Floor, touring across the world and leading to his appearance on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre in 2009. It became the first fulfilment of a lifelong dream to appear on the stage. His abilities were once again recognised when he joined the professional dancers on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2010. Enjoying five years on the series, Robin remembers all of his celebrity partners fondly, and remains good friends with them, in particular crediting Lisa Riley as an inspiration to women and those taking a chance on something new, and succeeding.

Chief among his personal achievements, Robin is immensely proud to have stared on Broadway, in the West End, and danced on Strictly Come Dancing all in the same year. Seeing his name in lights in London’s glittering West End, when asked to return to headline Burn the Floor, was another childhood dream achieved.

Robin is a keen teacher, and thanks to his successes, he was able to start his own branded dance lessons with beginners’ ballroom in 2015. Like many of us, he is passionate about passing his experience onto the next generation and inspiring them to develop and grow. His advice is always the same – dancing is just ‘walking in a pattern’ – and Robin is particularly keen to encourage boys of all ages to dance, to help them find their passion and achieve their potential. He maintains that dancing still doesn’t feel like a job – it is part of who he is, and something he enjoys so very much.

Achieving such success has allowed Robin to engage with charities that are close to his heart, and it is for his philanthropic work in particular that we recognise him today. He has appeared in Cosmopolitan to raise awareness for male cancer, and has worked with Make a Difference Trust, Wood Green Animal Shelter and Cats Protection. In 2016, he worked with Hearts in Harmony, a charity that combines passion for music, art and culture to help fight heart disease in children and adults. He has also supported the Greater Manchester Police campaign against domestic violence, and supports The Stonewall Charity campaigning for gay, lesbian and bisexual equality. Robin has long acknowledged that while so much progress has been made in recent years towards equal rights, we still have a long way to go, and he avidly works towards that better future.

Earlier this year, Robin also supported Inspire Suffolk, a local charity, also supported by the university that helps young people to overcome challenges and take positive steps into work and training. He kindly acted as one of the celebrity judges for the 2017 Strictly Inspire Suffolk fundraiser, which rose over £10,000.

Robin’s hard work, dedication, and compassion are an inspiration to us all. From Ipswich, his courage and ability has taken him across the world, and he has faced challenges with kindness and perseverance.

Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Robin Windsor.

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Suffolk Business School Graduation 2017

By David Collins, Suffolk Business School, spoken at the Suffolk Business School graduation ceremony at 11:00 on Tuesday 17 October, 2017

Graduation day!

Sharp suit.

Expensive shoes.

Elegant and carefully selected accessories.

And a stylish haircut ruined by a stupid hat.

But enough about me…this is your day and I have something that I wish to share with you:

I love graduation day. I look forward to it. I enjoy it, I think, because all of the normal routines of daily life are temporarily suspended. All the hum-drum routines that signal and which are necessary to everyday life are set aside.

I rose early this morning.

I put on fancy clothes – Does anyone else feel like they have wandered into a Quidditch match?

I consumed a full English breakfast. And much of it did not make its way on to my tie.

If I’m honest I’m feeling pretty happy; rather content. In fact I’m feeling a bit festive.
You see the suspension of my daily routine makes today feel a bit like Christmas morning.

Charles Dickens – the soppy old fool – was a big fan of Christmas. And in his writing Dickens makes it very plain why he loves Christmas so. On Christmas morning, he tells us, people try just a little bit harder. They speak warmly; there is softness and kindness in the voice. There are no strangers on the street. Everyone is saluted. All are welcomed. Dickens loved Christmas, I think, because on Christmas morning we meet and become our better selves.

This has been my experience today. It is my better self that I think of when I turn my mind to graduation day. This is why I feel all festive. I hope that this has been your experience. I hope that like me you are feeling festive.

With warmth in my voice therefore I will take a moment to highlight the achievement of Helen Cook. Helen is the very first PhD to graduate from the University of Suffolk. Helen we are very proud of you. And at the risk of breaching protocol I will say congratulations Dr Cook!

And with softness I would like to speak now not only to the graduands but to your families and to my colleagues: I hope that today feels a bit like Christmas day (or Eid or Hannuka) because you have worked hard and you deserve to have your achievements recognised. Today you deserve words that are warm; speech that is soft. You deserve to have you achievements celebrated.

In a moment my colleague Dr Thomas will call you to the stage and in time-honoured fashion will acknowledge and honour your very substantial achievements by mis-pronouncing your names. Before this I simply close by asking that you stay in touch.

Don’t forget about us. Don’t forget what it took to get here today.

And as you go on to build your careers be ambassadors for the University of Suffolk.
Be role models for your communities. Meet and become your better selves. Don’t pull the ladder up after you.

Honour and keep the festive feeling that we share today.

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Suffolk Business School Graduation 2015!

Congratulations to the Suffolk Business School class of 2015!

Today, along with our wonderful graduates, we were lucky enough to welcome Karen Hester, Board member and Chief Operating Officer of Adnams as our honorary graduate. Karen’s story is an inspiring one, working her way up from part-time cleaner to an executive director within the company. Her track record for management, business, and ingenuity has made her an exceptional member of the Adnams team. During her acceptance speech, she encouraged our students on the beginning of their journey, and spoke of developing a strong work ethic to see them through to success. We feel very privileged to honour Karen!

A few photos from our wonderful 2015 graduation:

The Suffolk Business School class of 2015
The Suffolk Business School class of 2015
Getting ready for graduation
Getting ready for graduation
Grad Breakfast
Breakfast at Arlingtons before the Ceremony with Karen Hester, the Honourary Graduate

For the full album, see our Facebook page.