Charles Duncan Rice: Tributes to the ‘silent revolutionary’ of Scottish higher education


TRIBUTES have been paid to the ‘silent revolutionary’ in Scottish higher education who died aged 79.

Former University of Aberdeen head teacher Sir Charles Duncan Rice led the university from 1996 to 2010 and is described as a champion of philanthropy in the higher education sector.

Professor Sir Duncan Rice, who died on Thursday, led a philanthropic fundraising campaign at the university, the flagship of which was the £57million state-of-the-art library named in his honour.

He began his career in Aberdeen and worked at universities in the United States where he participated in fundraising campaigns for higher education before returning to a role at his alma mater in 1996.

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Professor George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “Professor Sir Duncan Rice has drawn attention to the long and distinguished tradition of philanthropy for education in this country and reaffirmed its importance for universities today.

“His passion for building a UK culture of giving to higher education has reverberated far beyond Aberdeen and earned him a reputation as the ‘silent revolutionary’ of Scottish higher education.

“At the time he launched the Sixth Century fundraising campaign, many thought that campaigns of the magnitude he announced for Aberdeen were impossible outside Oxford and Cambridge.

“Yet the continued commitment and success of the Aberdeen program since then has helped to encourage a wide range of UK universities to follow suit.

“His legacy at the university will live on, not least through our Sir Duncan Rice Library which bears his name in tribute.

“Professor Sir Duncan Rice’s commitment to international outlook and excellence on the world stage, and his enthusiasm for extending the university’s cultural role in the community continue to have a positive impact today. .”

Professor Sir Duncan Rice was born in Aberdeen and graduated with a first degree in history from the University of Aberdeen in 1964.

He began his professional career in the city as a history lecturer from 1966 to 1969 before moving to the United States to take up a professorship at Yale University.

He then moved to Hamilton College and then to New York University where he first served as dean of the faculty before being promoted to vice-chancellor in 1991.

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He continued in this role until 1996, when he returned to his alma mater to become Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen.

While studying at New York University, he played an important role in one of the most successful fundraising campaigns for higher education in the United States, which raised over $1 billion. US dollars in 10 years.

The University of Aberdeen said that during his tenure at Aberdeen, student numbers, including the proportion of international students, increased significantly and the university rose in international rankings.

Professor Sir Duncan Rice has recognized the importance of partnerships with other global universities, investment in research through Sixth Century Appointments and led a reform of Aberdeen’s curriculum as part of its commitment to raising the university’s ambition to strive for excellence on the international stage.

He was knighted in 2009 in recognition of his many contributions to the industry.


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