The heat was on for this year’s cohort of students as they graduated on one of the hottest days of the year. The grandeur of Rochester Cathedral provided cool and welcome relief as the thermometer touched 31 degrees outside. NRI staff and students defied the sweltering heat as they queued patiently for tickets and donned their gowns.
First in through the Cathedral’s north doors were the parents, guardians and relatives, keen to bag a seat with a good view, all proudly kitted out in smart suits and dresses as befits such a momentous occasion.
Within twenty minutes of the doors opening, the Cathedral went from being a quiet cavern of worship, to a joyous space filled with the buzz of conversation and barely muted excitement as the students filed in to take their places. The organist belted out lively renditions of Bond theme tunes and the waiting audience tapped their feet appreciatively to ‘Live and Let Die’ as the final guests found their seats.
“You are more than ready for the next step”, assured Professor Javier Bonnet as he welcomed everyone in his role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
Mayo Femi-Obalemo, the Greenwich Students’ Union Representative invited the graduates to give themselves a “resounding round of applause”, telling them, “your degree does not define you, you do. You can dare to build the future that you desire. I want you to leave this place today not only with your degree, but with the understanding that you can achieve anything you want.”
The Pro-Chancellor Marianne Ismail asked of the rows of expectant students; “if you remember two words from today, it’s to ‘be daring’. We’re all really reliant on you for our future”, she said, “take the opportunities that are presented to you. Don’t be afraid to fail, only be afraid not to try. Take a moment throughout your lives to give back to others, when you feel great, dare to extend a hand to help someone else feel great too.”
NRI students were first up to receive their awards and Professor Andrew Westby, Director of NRI, introduced the awards for students including PhD recipients Anthony Abbott for his work on ‘the ecology of the mosquito Culex modestus’ which looked at the possibility of these mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus in the UK, Hannah Scott for her project ‘the physical characteristics of wood biochar as a cause for changes in the water relations for a loamy sand soil’ and Sona Vyskocilova for her work on ‘integrative approach to discovering species diversity within the Mediterranean group of the Bemisia tabaci complex’.
The awards for Masters and Undergraduate degrees were then announced, and a constant procession of proud graduates filled the stage and side passages of the Cathedral, their ears ringing with applause and whoops of appreciation until the ceremony ended, just before 4pm.
Later, in the Cathedral gardens, surrounded by friends and family, lecturers and tutors, the happy graduates posed for photos and raised a toast to the future.
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