Dr Helen Pankhurst has been officially installed as the Chancellor of the University of Suffolk today (Thursday 20 December) at a ceremony in Ipswich.
It was announced in the autumn that Dr Pankhurst, who is a writer, academic, women’s right activist and senior adviser to CARE International, would be the University’s first Chancellor.
Dr Pankhurst is a trustee of ActionAid and a Visiting Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, leaders of the British suffragette movement. Her appointment as Chancellor comes in the centenary year when some women gained the right to vote.
Dr Pankhurst said, “The evening of the installation as first Chancellor was wonderful. It was about celebration, fun, people from the community, from the University, friends all together. Fundamentally, it was about the beginning of something. What is important is what we do subsequently.”
“I visited the University a couple of weeks ago and had many conversations with students and with staff. There were a few themes that came out of that. This is a small university dealing with many of the issues of other universities but it is new so it can learn from the past and can adapt and do things in a different way. A lot of discussions were around how centred the University is on the community, on the industries locally. It was clear that it is important to be as practical as possible with the degrees but at the same time it’s about academic learning and excellence.”
“My role as the first Chancellor is symbolic; it is about the idea, the vision of the University. I think the vison, for me, is about persistence, hard work, having an idea and sticking with it. It is about the power of individuals but also about how important it is to come together to effect change and that we can.”
“This county (Suffolk) has had some radical women involved across the different schisms within the suffragist and suffragette movement which is testament to the fact that the county can be quite radical and can make a difference. As well as Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Millicent Fawcett, there is also Constance Andrews and other lesser-known women that we still have to find out more about and celebrate. Let’s hope that in the coming decade and in the coming centuries we still find and see many more women, and all people, rising up and ensuring the world is a better place.”
Reflecting on the centenary year, Dr Pankhurst said, “Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst and all the other suffragettes and suffragist women would be saying great for the celebration and there has been a lot of progress in so many areas socially, economically and politically. They would also, I think without exception, be saying you are not there yet, there are so many issues that need to be address and don’t wait for others to resolve them, and it is everyone’s responsibility to keep moving things forward.”
Looking ahead Dr Pankhurst commented on International Women’s Day 2019 “The theme will be ‘Balance for Better’, that’s the motto. It is really important- that idea of balance that we need to keep looking at issues of equality, that we can do and expect a better world. We can use the marker of International Women’s Day but work around it so it is not just about change on one day.”
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Suffolk, Professor Helen Langton, said of Dr Pankhurst’s installation, “The installation of a Chancellor is an important event in the life of a University. We are extremely proud that the University of Suffolk has installed Dr Helen Pankhurst as our Chancellor and look forward to seeing her act as a great ambassador and advocate for our University and our region.”
As is customary at installation ceremonies, the first duty of a new Chancellor is the conferment of an honorary award. This was presented to Suffolk based artist Charlotte Newson.
Charlotte Newson is a visual artist; her most notable piece of work is a photo-mosaic portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst, entitled Women Like You, which is currently on display in the University’s foyer until 23 January.
Women Like You took Charlotte two years to complete and is made up of 10,000 individual images of inspiring women sent in by members of the public from across the world. Women Like You is the first contemporary artwork of Emmeline Pankhurst and is regarded as one of the most iconic images of the Suffragette today.
Charlotte said, "Little did I imagine as a student at Ipswich art school that one day I would receive this incredible honour - the most humbling experience and sense of achievement. Unexpected and I’m still smiling."
Honorary awards recognise notable contributions to the educational or cultural well-being of society, in business, industry, commerce or enterprise, for academic distinction, for public or community service or an exceptional contribution to the University.
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