Writer, comedian and broadcaster Sandi Toksvig has been installed as Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth.
She hopes to use her new role to help bring the University and its excellence to the attention of as wide an audience as possible.
She said: “I hope to represent the students and the staff in public forums and to be available to speak up for their needs and achievements.”
Ms Toksvig began her comedy career at Girton College, Cambridge University, where she wrote and performed in the first all-woman show at the celebrated Footlights theatre. At Cambridge she studied law, archaeology, and anthropology, graduating with a first-class degree and receiving two prizes for outstanding achievement.
Yesterday, she addressed an audience of 300 VIPs, governors, staff and students while many current and former students worldwide watched the ceremony streamed live over the internet.
Vice-Chancellor Professor John Craven, welcomed Ms Toksvig and discussed the role of Chancellor. He said one of the key reasons Sandi was invited to be the University’s Chancellor was because she epitomises values the University holds dear, including education, personal freedom and autonomy.
Dr Sherria Hoskins, head of psychology, welcomed Ms Toksvig on behalf of staff. She said: “People come to Portsmouth and they fall in love with it. Some never leave, choosing to make it their home. Part of the Portsmouth experience is a feeling of integration with the local community, of the excitement of being part of a creative and dynamic city by the sea. We hope that you will fall in love with it too and become an ambassador for the city and its University of which we are so proud.”
Godfrey Atuahene Junior, president of the Students’ Union, said: “There is no such thing as an average Portsmouth student. We come from across the whole country and from more than 100 countries across the world, and we range in age from 17 to 77. I really love this about Portsmouth and I would ask you to share your experience of Portsmouth, its students and our achievements, with the outside world. We accomplish great things every day and I think that deserves to be celebrated.”
Ms Toksvig is a firm believer in the value of education. She said: “All education is important and not just the vocational kind.
“At university I learnt to think and most importantly, to question what I thought I already knew. Historically great ideas have often sprung from the unexpected.
“It is fine to learn something for its own sake and not just because it might help with the CV.”
The secret to success was no mystery and involved determination and commitment: “I choose projects I like the sound of, then I get up early and work very hard.
“Modern celebrity is not true success. If you want success, study something for more than 30 years and eventually the world will beat a path to your door wanting to know what you know.”
In 2010 the University of Portsmouth made her an honorary Doctor of Letters in recognition of her work as a writer, broadcaster and comedian.
She said of her career: “It’s been a busy three decades or more. I began in repertory theatre at Nottingham Playhouse and moved into television via a children’s television programme called No 73. After that many television series followed including Whose Line is it Anyway? and Call My Bluff.
“My latest TV show, 1001 Things You Should Know, begins airing on Channel 4 in November. I have written more than 20 books including my new novel, Valentine Grey, and a new history book, Heroines and Harridans. I have written a column for Good Housekeeping magazine for more than 20 years, am the host of the News Quiz on Radio 4 and my new play Bully Boy opened in the West End in September.”
Despite an enormously successful career she said she didn’t worry about success, instead preferring “to do good work and then go home to dinner with my family”.
Her father Claus Toksvig, a foreign correspondent for Danish television, had been the greatest influence on her life and her family have donated his books to the University’s School of Languages and Area Studies, which teaches American Studies. The family have also donated a prize in his name, the Claus Toksvig prize, for an American Studies Dissertation.
Ms Toksvig hopes to come to know the city of Portsmouth much better over her five-year term as Chancellor.
She said: “I don’t have many personal connections to the city although I have performed with great pleasure at the New Theatre Royal, dined aboard HMS Victory and spent some time admiring the waterfront when I made a documentary sailing around Britain with John McCarthy.
“I plan to spend more time here and get to know the city known as the home of great writing.”