Robert Gordon University has appointed an internationally acclaimed Scots solo percussionist and double GRAMMY award-winner as its new chancellor.

Dame Evelyn Glennie CH, who received an Honorary Doctor of Music Degree from RGU in 2016, will step into the role in July, replacing Sir Ian Wood after 16 years as titular head of the institution. 

She said: “I am honoured to join Robert Gordon University, the Scottish University of The Year, as its Chancellor. It has been my life’s mission to widen access to music and use it as a medium to build social cohesion. 

“I also know that listening is the key to inclusion and collaboration. RGU shares these values and I support the University’s ambition to eliminate barriers to higher education and widening participation among underrepresented groups.

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Dame Glennie is the first person in history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist, performing worldwide with the greatest orchestras, conductors and artists.

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She was awarded an OBE in 1993 and received more than 100 international awards, including the Polar Music Prize. 

During her childhood in an Aberdeenshire farm, Dame Glennie became drawn to percussion as her hearing declined because she could ‘feel the sound’. At the age of 16 she gained a place at The Royal Academy of Music in London, where she graduated with an Honours Degree at the age of 19.

Glennie stressed the important role of higher education in overcoming the pandemic: “RGU will have an important part to play in ensuring that society has the skills and learning necessary to enable it to thrive despite current challenges.

“I intend to build on the work done by Sir Ian Wood to enhance RGU’s reputation. I recognise this is a great privilege and I am proud to represent the University not just nationally but on an international stage.”

The university said the musician will play a “crucial ambassadorial role” and help raise RGU’s profile regionally, nationally and internationally.

Professor Steve Olivier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of RGU, added: “We are extremely honoured to appoint Dame Evelyn Glennie as the new Chancellor of Robert Gordon University.

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“Dame Evelyn has dedicated her life and career to helping others, whether that’s through her association with charities or by supporting access to music and education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds – values which are synonymous with this University.

Dame Glennie is patron to several charities and regularly participates in events to raise money and awareness for organisations such as Great Ormond Street Hospital, Rett UK and Create. She was recently appointed the first female President of Help Musicians UK, a charity who supports artists throughout their careers.

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Sir Ian Wood will preside over his last graduation ceremonies in July, which will be held virtually due to the pandemic. He was one of the longest-serving chancellors in the last 100 years and graduated some 80,000 students. 

The University will hold a special ceremony to mark the handover of the Chancellor position when it is safe to do so in person.

He said: “After a long stint as Chancellor of Robert Gordon University, I am very happy to be stepping down, particularly as my successor is to be Evelyn Glennie.  

“I am absolutely delighted at her appointment. She will do it very differently from me but I know she will do it superbly and be very popular with the students.”