First Minister opens GCU New York

08 April 2014

First Minister opens GCU New York

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond opens GCU New York

The New York campus of Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) has been officially opened by Scotland’s First Minister, the Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MSP.

To mark the occasion, the First Minister presented the inaugural Caledonian Lecture to a distinguished audience of around 120 guests. Mr Salmond also unveiled a plaque to commemorate the opening of the satellite campus, based in Wooster Street in Manhattan’s SoHo district.

The First Minister was introduced by the Principal and Vice Chancellor of GCU Professor Pamela Gillies CBE who said it was a privilege to welcome Mr Salmond and referred to the University’s commitment to the ‘common good’ as part of a wider vision GCU shared with the Scottish Government.

“As a University committed to work for the common weal or the common good, we share the First Minister’s vision of striving to improve the national wellbeing of the people of Scotland, whilst also recognising our ability to help solve real-life global problems,” said Professor Gillies.

“As a lifelong and passionate advocate for social justice and for the transformative power of education for all, whatever our background or circumstances, I am sure you will all share my anticipation to hear our speaker’s insights this evening.”

The event, on April 7, was opened by GCU Student President Matt Lamb, who together with the Principal, the Chair of Court Tony Brian, the Vice-President of GCU NY Cara Smyth and the President of NYC Economic Development Corporation Kyle Kimball had formally welcomed Mr Salmond to the new campus.

In a wide-ranging speech, the First Minister spoke about Scotland’s immense contribution to global development, from past inventions – “the list is so long that an American historian, Arthur Herman, went so far as to assert that Scotland had invented the modern world” – to current initiatives, including climate justice research in which he said GCU is playing a significant role.

The First Minister said that Glasgow Caledonian University’s decision to establish a campus in New York continued a long tradition of Scottish educational influence in the USA, adding: “In the 17th and 18th centuries, Scottish universities were recognised as models for some of the leading American centres of learning; including Princeton – at that time the College of New Jersey, where John Witherspoon from East Lothian was a very influential president – Brown, Pennsylvania; William & Mary, and Columbia here in New York. 

“The campus also demonstrates this university’s growing global reach. Glasgow Caledonian already welcomes students from more than 100 countries. You have associations with universities in Brazil, China, the USA, South Africa and India.

“Your Chancellor, Muhammad Yunus, is known round the world as a champion of equality, sustainable prosperity and justice – to the extent that he has been recognised with a Nobel Peace Prize, a US Congressional Gold Medal and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“His values are reflected in the wider work of the University. They shone through in the passion for social justice, and especially gender justice, demonstrated by my good friend Professor Ailsa Mackay – the feminist economist who made a significant contribution to public policy, and whose recent passing was mourned by so many across Scotland and internationally.

“They are also shown by the Climate Justice resource hub you established last October, partnered by the Mary Robinson Climate Justice Foundation.  And we can also see them in action here in New York. They are shown by the close ties you have established with the United Nations, as a signatory to the UN’s Principles for Responsible Management Education.

“They are also demonstrated by some of this campus’s early initiatives on ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry.

“In all of this,” said the First Minister, “you are living up to your motto – ‘for the common weal’. ”

The First Minister went on to examine the impact of Scotland’s links with the United States, including influencing the American Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, and he reflected on the global impact of Scots as thought-leaders, inventors, environmentalists, philanthropists, writers and poets.

As well as looking back, Mr Salmond also looked forward to what Scotland’s contribution to the world might be as an independent nation and returning to the theme of education, he said: “One of the proudest achievements of this Scottish Government was to restore the principle of free tuition for university education; and it’s why I’m so delighted to be here to celebrate the work of one of our many world-class higher educational institutions. Education has been central to Scotland’s greatest contributions to the world in the past; it will be fundamental to them in the future.”

The First Minister also spoke about the Scottish Government’s climate justice fund and referred to GCU’s “great work” in this field.

“Climate justice is the idea that nations which have benefited from industrialisation should help less developed countries to adapt to the consequences of climate change.

“Professor Tahseen Jafry of Glasgow Caledonian joined me in the film which was made two years ago to mark the launch of our fund. Professor Jafry has subsequently led the great work of Glasgow Caledonian in launching its climate justice resource hub. The Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund has been endorsed by Vice President Al Gore, and has received strong support from Mary Robinson, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose Climate Justice Foundation works so closely with Glasgow Caledonian.”

At the end of the Lecture, GCU Vice Principal & Pro Vice-Chancellor Business Development, Enterprise & Innovation Professor Lesley Sawers chaired a lively question and answer session with the First Minister.

The Caledonian Lecture was the highlight of a series of events to mark the opening of the GCU New York campus which included a visit from a cross-party delegation from the Scottish Parliament. Led by Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick, the group visited the campus on Friday, April 4.

And on Tuesday, April 8, GCU New York’s first ‘Town Hall’ series ‘Fashion Sharing Progress’ begins with high-profile heritage fashion brands, Scottish fabric manufacturer Harris Tweed Hebrides and US clothier Brooks Brothers, examining sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. 

GCU New York opening

- Chair of Court Tony Brian, First Minister Alex Salmond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE, President of NYC Economic Development Corporation Kyle Kimball and  Vice-President of GCU New York Cara Smyth