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Posted on 4th April 2005. No Comment

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Alexander Edwards brings you news of the man who will replace Sir Peter Ustinov as Chancellor of Durham University.


Best–selling author Bill Bryson was appointed Chancellor of Durham University today by Convocation, after a joint meeting of the University Council and Senate in the Senate Chamber of Old Shire Hall. Mr Bryson, who was awarded an honorary doctorate in Civil Law by Durham University in July 2004, replaces Sir Peter Ustinov, who died in March of last year.

Mr Bryson was chosen by a Joint Committee (which included members of the University Council, Senate, and Durham Student’s Union) from a list of 519 names, after an appeal to alumni, students and staff of the university, which led to 1839 responses. Vice-Chancellor & Warden Sir Kenneth Calman hinted that Mr Bryson’s installation ceremony will probably take place sometime during the Michealmas term of the next academic year, which will unfortunately mean that although Mr Bryson may attend some of the congregation ceremonies this summer, it will not be in an official capacity.

The US-born writer also serves as a commissioner for English Heritage. In 2004 he was awarded the Aventis Prize for Popular Science for his most recent work, A Short History of Nearly Everything, which also led to his nomination for an honorary degree from Durham University’s Department of Earth Sciences. He moved back to Britain in 2003, and currently lives in Norfolk.

watch this space for more information when d21 meets Mr Bryson tomorrow morning….

alexander edwards
photo by barney

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  • sally said:

    nice speedy reporting!

  • sally said:

    nice speedy reporting!

  • sally said:

    nice speedy reporting!

  • barney said:

    Thanks Sally! We’re off to a press conference and coffee with Bill tomorrow morning, so we’ll extend this article pretty soon.

    An excellent choice for Chancellor, although it is a shame that the student body was almost totally unrepresented in the decision-making process. Although DSU was represented in Senate, the proceedings were entirely secret, so undergraduates weren’t given a chance to voice any opinions. Shame, but nevertheless, a good choice. Long Live Bill!

  • barney said:

    Thanks Sally! We’re off to a press conference and coffee with Bill tomorrow morning, so we’ll extend this article pretty soon.

    An excellent choice for Chancellor, although it is a shame that the student body was almost totally unrepresented in the decision-making process. Although DSU was represented in Senate, the proceedings were entirely secret, so undergraduates weren’t given a chance to voice any opinions. Shame, but nevertheless, a good choice. Long Live Bill!

  • barney said:

    Thanks Sally! We’re off to a press conference and coffee with Bill tomorrow morning, so we’ll extend this article pretty soon.

    An excellent choice for Chancellor, although it is a shame that the student body was almost totally unrepresented in the decision-making process. Although DSU was represented in Senate, the proceedings were entirely secret, so undergraduates weren’t given a chance to voice any opinions. Shame, but nevertheless, a good choice. Long Live Bill!

  • JMc said:

    Does this mean I have to shake calman’s hand? No, no, no. Please let Bill say no!

  • JMc said:

    Does this mean I have to shake calman’s hand? No, no, no. Please let Bill say no!

  • JMc said:

    Does this mean I have to shake calman’s hand? No, no, no. Please let Bill say no!

  • Jim said:

    It’s nice that such a nice hard working man has been appointed our University chancellor. He’s no Judi Dench but what a colourful character. It would be nice to be able to find out more about this character.

  • Jim said:

    It’s nice that such a nice hard working man has been appointed our University chancellor. He’s no Judi Dench but what a colourful character. It would be nice to be able to find out more about this character.

  • Jim said:

    It’s nice that such a nice hard working man has been appointed our University chancellor. He’s no Judi Dench but what a colourful character. It would be nice to be able to find out more about this character.

  • Anonymous said:

    Already looking forward to the speeches at my graduation next year… fantastic!

  • Anonymous said:

    Already looking forward to the speeches at my graduation next year… fantastic!

  • Anonymous said:

    Already looking forward to the speeches at my graduation next year… fantastic!

  • hamster said:

    This was the best news I’d had all year… don’t take it away from me by telling me he’s not doing congregation this year! I couldn’t pick Kenny C out in a line up, why would I want a photo of me receiving my degree from him?

  • hamster said:

    This was the best news I’d had all year… don’t take it away from me by telling me he’s not doing congregation this year! I couldn’t pick Kenny C out in a line up, why would I want a photo of me receiving my degree from him?

  • hamster said:

    This was the best news I’d had all year… don’t take it away from me by telling me he’s not doing congregation this year! I couldn’t pick Kenny C out in a line up, why would I want a photo of me receiving my degree from him?

  • sally said:

    I know, I want to get my degree from someone, anyone, other than KC…we want Bill!

  • sally said:

    I know, I want to get my degree from someone, anyone, other than KC…we want Bill!

  • sally said:

    I know, I want to get my degree from someone, anyone, other than KC…we want Bill!

  • Dave said:

    According to the University’s press release, Bryson takes up office “with immediate effect”, so presumably can preside at Congregation with his full powers, even before being formally installed?

  • Dave said:

    According to the University’s press release, Bryson takes up office “with immediate effect”, so presumably can preside at Congregation with his full powers, even before being formally installed?

  • Dave said:

    According to the University’s press release, Bryson takes up office “with immediate effect”, so presumably can preside at Congregation with his full powers, even before being formally installed?

  • Anonymous said:

    Poor choice, I think. Complete unknown outside people with a specialised interest. Durham needs a popular and well-known figurehead and BB won’t be it.

    Also, after a year since Ustinov’s death, I really think if another Congreagation is without a Chancellor then it is a failure of organisation on the part of OSH.

  • Anonymous said:

    Poor choice, I think. Complete unknown outside people with a specialised interest. Durham needs a popular and well-known figurehead and BB won’t be it.

    Also, after a year since Ustinov’s death, I really think if another Congreagation is without a Chancellor then it is a failure of organisation on the part of OSH.

  • Anonymous said:

    Poor choice, I think. Complete unknown outside people with a specialised interest. Durham needs a popular and well-known figurehead and BB won’t be it.

    Also, after a year since Ustinov’s death, I really think if another Congreagation is without a Chancellor then it is a failure of organisation on the part of OSH.

  • pk said:

    what a bunch of populist nonsense. Should a chancellor be chosen because he wrote a small paragraph praising Durham city once. I am glad that I am not the only person to think that he is a bit of a crap choice. Mind you, I would rather shake a hand grenade than KC’s hand when I graduate.

  • pk said:

    what a bunch of populist nonsense. Should a chancellor be chosen because he wrote a small paragraph praising Durham city once. I am glad that I am not the only person to think that he is a bit of a crap choice. Mind you, I would rather shake a hand grenade than KC’s hand when I graduate.

  • pk said:

    what a bunch of populist nonsense. Should a chancellor be chosen because he wrote a small paragraph praising Durham city once. I am glad that I am not the only person to think that he is a bit of a crap choice. Mind you, I would rather shake a hand grenade than KC’s hand when I graduate.

  • mt said:

    Populist and unknown?

  • mt said:

    Populist and unknown?

  • mt said:

    Populist and unknown?

  • mt said:

    9.26. Bad minute for comments.

  • mt said:

    9.26. Bad minute for comments.

  • mt said:

    9.26. Bad minute for comments.

  • ed said:

    Look, who did you want? Judi Dench? What
    connection does she have to Durham? What
    connection did Ustinov of Fontaine have?
    Bryson is an accomplished author and
    something of a polymath. He likes the place
    and is willing to take the job. Who else fits
    the bill? It’s a ceremonial role that involves
    smiling, shaking hands and rattling the
    collection tin. And if you want to trade
    chancellors, I’ll swap you the duke of
    edinburgh for Bryson any day. I’ll even throw
    in a four-pack of stella and a kit-kat, just to
    make it more even.

    Personally, I appreciate the irony of the
    university appointing a lexicographer and
    author on linguistics immediately after
    cutting the department. But that’s life, I
    guess.

  • ed said:

    Look, who did you want? Judi Dench? What
    connection does she have to Durham? What
    connection did Ustinov of Fontaine have?
    Bryson is an accomplished author and
    something of a polymath. He likes the place
    and is willing to take the job. Who else fits
    the bill? It’s a ceremonial role that involves
    smiling, shaking hands and rattling the
    collection tin. And if you want to trade
    chancellors, I’ll swap you the duke of
    edinburgh for Bryson any day. I’ll even throw
    in a four-pack of stella and a kit-kat, just to
    make it more even.

    Personally, I appreciate the irony of the
    university appointing a lexicographer and
    author on linguistics immediately after
    cutting the department. But that’s life, I
    guess.

  • ed said:

    Look, who did you want? Judi Dench? What
    connection does she have to Durham? What
    connection did Ustinov of Fontaine have?
    Bryson is an accomplished author and
    something of a polymath. He likes the place
    and is willing to take the job. Who else fits
    the bill? It’s a ceremonial role that involves
    smiling, shaking hands and rattling the
    collection tin. And if you want to trade
    chancellors, I’ll swap you the duke of
    edinburgh for Bryson any day. I’ll even throw
    in a four-pack of stella and a kit-kat, just to
    make it more even.

    Personally, I appreciate the irony of the
    university appointing a lexicographer and
    author on linguistics immediately after
    cutting the department. But that’s life, I
    guess.

  • Rich said:

    I think its a pretty good choice. bearing in mind the chancellors nothing more than a token figurehead I think its good to get someone famous, regardless of his lack of links to durham. would have been nice to get the students more involved tho.

    I just hope he does the graduating this summer & not calman. plus I need a car for when I leave, & I seem to remember bryson generously offering his… :) :) :)

  • Rich said:

    I think its a pretty good choice. bearing in mind the chancellors nothing more than a token figurehead I think its good to get someone famous, regardless of his lack of links to durham. would have been nice to get the students more involved tho.

    I just hope he does the graduating this summer & not calman. plus I need a car for when I leave, & I seem to remember bryson generously offering his… :) :) :)

  • Rich said:

    I think its a pretty good choice. bearing in mind the chancellors nothing more than a token figurehead I think its good to get someone famous, regardless of his lack of links to durham. would have been nice to get the students more involved tho.

    I just hope he does the graduating this summer & not calman. plus I need a car for when I leave, & I seem to remember bryson generously offering his… :) :) :)

  • Bobby said:

    Sorry to see all the negative comments. It’s a different kind of choice than Ustinov was, but I’m sure Bryson will be an excellent Chancellor in many ways. Surprised it’s only for 5 years though – I see the logic in not making it for life, but 5 years seems a very short term. It’s half way to the US universities, which generally no longer have chancellors, have turned their vice chancellors into presidents, and have a different “commencement speaker” at their graduations every year.

  • Bobby said:

    Sorry to see all the negative comments. It’s a different kind of choice than Ustinov was, but I’m sure Bryson will be an excellent Chancellor in many ways. Surprised it’s only for 5 years though – I see the logic in not making it for life, but 5 years seems a very short term. It’s half way to the US universities, which generally no longer have chancellors, have turned their vice chancellors into presidents, and have a different “commencement speaker” at their graduations every year.

  • Bobby said:

    Sorry to see all the negative comments. It’s a different kind of choice than Ustinov was, but I’m sure Bryson will be an excellent Chancellor in many ways. Surprised it’s only for 5 years though – I see the logic in not making it for life, but 5 years seems a very short term. It’s half way to the US universities, which generally no longer have chancellors, have turned their vice chancellors into presidents, and have a different “commencement speaker” at their graduations every year.

  • barney said:

    The impression that I got was that after five years, if no-one can think of a good reason why not, BB will continue as Chancellor. It’s not a big deal. Bryson is in the middle of his career, whereas Ustinov was already quite old when he got the job. It would be stupid to ask BB to do the job until he died. Unpaid.

    Also, the time-frame is simply too tight for BB to attend congregation in a ceremonial capacity over 3 days, 300 miles away from where he lives. He was only told about his nomination last week for heaven’s sake. He has offered to be there, and we should thank him for that.

    He will ‘become’ chancellor at the earliest practical date that falls within term time. This means some time in Michaelmas 2005. Pretty straightforward really.

    Enough bellyaching now I think. BB is a good, intelligent and friendly man, who is well-known as an author all over the world. A good choice.

  • barney said:

    The impression that I got was that after five years, if no-one can think of a good reason why not, BB will continue as Chancellor. It’s not a big deal. Bryson is in the middle of his career, whereas Ustinov was already quite old when he got the job. It would be stupid to ask BB to do the job until he died. Unpaid.

    Also, the time-frame is simply too tight for BB to attend congregation in a ceremonial capacity over 3 days, 300 miles away from where he lives. He was only told about his nomination last week for heaven’s sake. He has offered to be there, and we should thank him for that.

    He will ‘become’ chancellor at the earliest practical date that falls within term time. This means some time in Michaelmas 2005. Pretty straightforward really.

    Enough bellyaching now I think. BB is a good, intelligent and friendly man, who is well-known as an author all over the world. A good choice.

  • barney said:

    The impression that I got was that after five years, if no-one can think of a good reason why not, BB will continue as Chancellor. It’s not a big deal. Bryson is in the middle of his career, whereas Ustinov was already quite old when he got the job. It would be stupid to ask BB to do the job until he died. Unpaid.

    Also, the time-frame is simply too tight for BB to attend congregation in a ceremonial capacity over 3 days, 300 miles away from where he lives. He was only told about his nomination last week for heaven’s sake. He has offered to be there, and we should thank him for that.

    He will ‘become’ chancellor at the earliest practical date that falls within term time. This means some time in Michaelmas 2005. Pretty straightforward really.

    Enough bellyaching now I think. BB is a good, intelligent and friendly man, who is well-known as an author all over the world. A good choice.

  • Thorn said:

    Good? Intelligent? Friendly? Well known author? BB is nothing of the sort.

  • Thorn said:

    Good? Intelligent? Friendly? Well known author? BB is nothing of the sort.

  • Thorn said:

    Good? Intelligent? Friendly? Well known author? BB is nothing of the sort.

  • Thorn said:

    Oh wait, you meant Bill Bryson, not Barney Britton. I retract my last statement.

  • Thorn said:

    Oh wait, you meant Bill Bryson, not Barney Britton. I retract my last statement.

  • Thorn said:

    Oh wait, you meant Bill Bryson, not Barney Britton. I retract my last statement.

  • Rob said:

    what’s the obsession with Judi Dench? For goodness sake it’s starting to sound like Private Eye!! So we haven’t got someone who’s done a load of films or been in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So what?

    Bill Bryson will be an excellent chancellor, I’m sure. It seems people would rather have an ultra famous, and not as dedicated chancellor than one not as famous yet willing to do a good job. Guess thats democracy for you.

  • Rob said:

    what’s the obsession with Judi Dench? For goodness sake it’s starting to sound like Private Eye!! So we haven’t got someone who’s done a load of films or been in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So what?

    Bill Bryson will be an excellent chancellor, I’m sure. It seems people would rather have an ultra famous, and not as dedicated chancellor than one not as famous yet willing to do a good job. Guess thats democracy for you.

  • Rob said:

    what’s the obsession with Judi Dench? For goodness sake it’s starting to sound like Private Eye!! So we haven’t got someone who’s done a load of films or been in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So what?

    Bill Bryson will be an excellent chancellor, I’m sure. It seems people would rather have an ultra famous, and not as dedicated chancellor than one not as famous yet willing to do a good job. Guess thats democracy for you.

  • barney said:

    You’re a bastard Thorn, but I love you. As you know. X

  • barney said:

    You’re a bastard Thorn, but I love you. As you know. X

  • barney said:

    You’re a bastard Thorn, but I love you. As you know. X

  • shankly said:

    hands up everyone who misses ian thorn?

  • shankly said:

    that would be nobody then

  • shankly said:

    hands up everyone who misses ian thorn?

  • shankly said:

    that would be nobody then

  • shankly said:

    hands up everyone who misses ian thorn?

  • shankly said:

    that would be nobody then

  • Jon Bierman said:

  • Jon Bierman said:

  • Jon Bierman said:

  • JMc said:

    Can we carry on the game of all jump on Calman please? He might get crushed and then Bill would be forced into shaking my hand. I really don’t want to get my degree from a horrid scotsman over whom I tower, and at 5’9″ that’s saying something.

  • JMc said:

    Can we carry on the game of all jump on Calman please? He might get crushed and then Bill would be forced into shaking my hand. I really don’t want to get my degree from a horrid scotsman over whom I tower, and at 5’9″ that’s saying something.

  • JMc said:

    Can we carry on the game of all jump on Calman please? He might get crushed and then Bill would be forced into shaking my hand. I really don’t want to get my degree from a horrid scotsman over whom I tower, and at 5’9″ that’s saying something.

  • Vicky said:

    Agreed John. I think the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory may be missing an umpa-lumpa, do you reckon they’ll take him back?

  • Vicky said:

    Agreed John. I think the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory may be missing an umpa-lumpa, do you reckon they’ll take him back?

  • Vicky said:

    Agreed John. I think the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory may be missing an umpa-lumpa, do you reckon they’ll take him back?

  • Si ><> said:

    Did you watch the piece about it on Look North? With Tom, Bill and Kenny Boy standing in a line I couldn’t but think of the class sketch from the Frost Report with John Cleese and the Two Ronnies.

  • Si ><> said:

    Did you watch the piece about it on Look North? With Tom, Bill and Kenny Boy standing in a line I couldn’t but think of the class sketch from the Frost Report with John Cleese and the Two Ronnies.

  • Si ><> said:

    Did you watch the piece about it on Look North? With Tom, Bill and Kenny Boy standing in a line I couldn’t but think of the class sketch from the Frost Report with John Cleese and the Two Ronnies.

  • R.N said:

    Can everyone stop mocking Kenneth Calman? Not a lot of people realise what a cool guy he is, after all he was the original lead singer and founder of “KC and the Sunshine Band.” Utterly true.

  • R.N said:

    Can everyone stop mocking Kenneth Calman? Not a lot of people realise what a cool guy he is, after all he was the original lead singer and founder of “KC and the Sunshine Band.” Utterly true.

  • R.N said:

    Can everyone stop mocking Kenneth Calman? Not a lot of people realise what a cool guy he is, after all he was the original lead singer and founder of “KC and the Sunshine Band.” Utterly true.

  • Alex said:

    All together now:
    “Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo/that’s the way (uh huh uh huh!) I like it (uh huh uh huh!) etc etc

  • Alex said:

    All together now:
    “Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo/that’s the way (uh huh uh huh!) I like it (uh huh uh huh!) etc etc

  • Alex said:

    All together now:
    “Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo/that’s the way (uh huh uh huh!) I like it (uh huh uh huh!) etc etc

  • H said:

    Seriously though, Ken’s a good egg. I don’t really see what he’s done wrong to be so disliked. And he’s quite an important figure, really, but not very glamourous. However, his dog is very nearly as big as him, which always makes me laugh.

    Good work on Bill, bloody delighted.

  • H said:

    Seriously though, Ken’s a good egg. I don’t really see what he’s done wrong to be so disliked. And he’s quite an important figure, really, but not very glamourous. However, his dog is very nearly as big as him, which always makes me laugh.

    Good work on Bill, bloody delighted.

  • H said:

    Seriously though, Ken’s a good egg. I don’t really see what he’s done wrong to be so disliked. And he’s quite an important figure, really, but not very glamourous. However, his dog is very nearly as big as him, which always makes me laugh.

    Good work on Bill, bloody delighted.

  • Kat said:

    He’s got a charming beard as well. Who wouldn’t trust a man with a beard like that?

  • Kat said:

    He’s got a charming beard as well. Who wouldn’t trust a man with a beard like that?

  • Kat said:

    He’s got a charming beard as well. Who wouldn’t trust a man with a beard like that?

  • Kat said:

    Oh yeah, Ed, I remember listening to his book about America in the wee small hours once without knowing who it was. He sounded just like you and was so delightfully bitter I was on the verge of getting a pound from everyone to buy it for you until I realised he was famous. Boo.

  • Kat said:

    Oh yeah, Ed, I remember listening to his book about America in the wee small hours once without knowing who it was. He sounded just like you and was so delightfully bitter I was on the verge of getting a pound from everyone to buy it for you until I realised he was famous. Boo.

  • Kat said:

    Oh yeah, Ed, I remember listening to his book about America in the wee small hours once without knowing who it was. He sounded just like you and was so delightfully bitter I was on the verge of getting a pound from everyone to buy it for you until I realised he was famous. Boo.

  • barney said:

    I hate myself to the very core of my being for knowing this, but it is Kerry Shale, not Bill Bryson who provides the narration for the Radio adaptations of BB’s books. I want to kill myself.

  • barney said:

    I hate myself to the very core of my being for knowing this, but it is Kerry Shale, not Bill Bryson who provides the narration for the Radio adaptations of BB’s books. I want to kill myself.

  • barney said:

    I hate myself to the very core of my being for knowing this, but it is Kerry Shale, not Bill Bryson who provides the narration for the Radio adaptations of BB’s books. I want to kill myself.

  • ed said:

    Just in case anyone hasn’t seen this week’s
    Private Eye…

    “Irony is obviously lost on those in charge at
    the University of Durham — just ask the
    author Bill Bryson.

    Bryson has just been appointed chancellor,
    replacing Peter Ustinov, and as the author of
    two accessible books on the history of the
    English language, “Mother Tongue” and
    “Made in America”, Bryson would be a
    popular choice among the linguistics
    students at the university. Except there
    aren’t going to be any. Durham’s department
    of linguistics and English language, one of
    the highest ranked in the UK, is in the
    process of closing and took its last
    undergraduate students in 2003.”

  • ed said:

    Just in case anyone hasn’t seen this week’s
    Private Eye…

    “Irony is obviously lost on those in charge at
    the University of Durham — just ask the
    author Bill Bryson.

    Bryson has just been appointed chancellor,
    replacing Peter Ustinov, and as the author of
    two accessible books on the history of the
    English language, “Mother Tongue” and
    “Made in America”, Bryson would be a
    popular choice among the linguistics
    students at the university. Except there
    aren’t going to be any. Durham’s department
    of linguistics and English language, one of
    the highest ranked in the UK, is in the
    process of closing and took its last
    undergraduate students in 2003.”

  • ed said:

    Just in case anyone hasn’t seen this week’s
    Private Eye…

    “Irony is obviously lost on those in charge at
    the University of Durham — just ask the
    author Bill Bryson.

    Bryson has just been appointed chancellor,
    replacing Peter Ustinov, and as the author of
    two accessible books on the history of the
    English language, “Mother Tongue” and
    “Made in America”, Bryson would be a
    popular choice among the linguistics
    students at the university. Except there
    aren’t going to be any. Durham’s department
    of linguistics and English language, one of
    the highest ranked in the UK, is in the
    process of closing and took its last
    undergraduate students in 2003.”

  • Ian Hislop said:

    Ha ha! I thought it was superb! I stole the idea off last term’s edition of Grey Matter. Must remember to hire that editor…

  • Ian Hislop said:

    Ha ha! I thought it was superb! I stole the idea off last term’s edition of Grey Matter. Must remember to hire that editor…

  • Ian Hislop said:

    Ha ha! I thought it was superb! I stole the idea off last term’s edition of Grey Matter. Must remember to hire that editor…