Sir Thomas Allen completing final duties as Chancellor

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Sir Thomas Allen is leaving his role as Chancellor of Durham University this summer after presiding over his final congregations at Durham Cathedral.

It was announced last November that Allen would step down after ten years. The opera singer succeeded author Bill Bryson as Chancellor in 2012.

Speaking about his time as Chancellor, Sir Thomas Allen said: “From day one, ten years ago, I’ve been trying to summon the words to best describe this experience.

“I’m still trying, though I can say briefly that a great part of being Chancellor has been a kind of further education process in the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced. It has been the greatest honour and privilege, and I shall miss the people and the role terribly.”

Durham University began holding the first of 34 graduation ceremonies in Durham Cathedral on Monday (28th June). They will continue for the next two weeks until 7th July.

“It has been the greatest honour and privilege, and I shall miss the people and the role terribly”

Sir thomas allen

Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, said: “We are greatly looking forward to welcoming our students and their loved ones for this very special Congregation fortnight.

“They have worked hard and we wish them every success in the future. We know as Durham University graduates they will be highly sought after by employers worldwide, and we hope that they will maintain close links with us here at Durham.

“It also offers us an opportunity to thank Sir Thomas for his outstanding service to the University as Chancellor for the past ten years. He has been, and will continue to be, an inspiration to our staff, students and alumni.”

During his time as Chancellor, Allen received the Queen’s Medal for Music in 2013.  He has also performed alongside students at University concerts, including for Prince Charles in Durham Cathedral.

More recently, in 2020, Sir Thomas featured in ‘Opera by the Lake’, which included a full orchestra and 50-strong chorus, held inside Van Mildert College’s Ann Dobson Hall.

“(Sir Thomas) has been, and will continue to be, an inspiration to our staff, students and alumni.”

karen o’brien

Allen’s career began with the Welsh National Opera, and from there he went on to sing more than 50 roles at the Royal Opera House including performing for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee at the Palace Grounds. He was knighted in the 1999 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

To thank Sir Thomas for his service, the University has dedicated a new state-of-the-art Steinway Spirio piano in his honour. A farewell dinner is also planned at Durham Castle.

The University will announce its 13th Chancellor in due course.

Image: Durham University

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