Nino Severino: A great night out at the University of Suffolk

Diana Quick talking at the University of Suffolk dinner which Nino Severino attended - and was inspi

Diana Quick talking at the University of Suffolk dinner which Nino Severino attended - and was inspired by. Picture: UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK - Credit: Archant

In his latest column, Nino Severino shares his experiences of an inspirational night at the University of Suffolk.

Nino's wife Elena Baltacha receiving her Honorary Degree back in 2012. Picture: NINO SEVERINO

Nino's wife Elena Baltacha receiving her Honorary Degree back in 2012. Picture: NINO SEVERINO - Credit: Archant

Over the last few months I have had a number of meetings with Dr Gavin Devereux, Director of Sports Sciences and Coaching at the University of Suffolk.

That has led onto some very exciting experiences, including a tour of the very impressive sports science laboratories and testing facilities, and the lecture rooms where the students are learning their trade.

These meetings have also offered me the opportunity to connect with other members of the university, including Vice-Chancellor Richard Lister who invited me to the Honorary Graduates and Fellows Dinner to represent my late wife, who was awarded an Honorary degree back in 2012.

It was a pleasure to accept this invitation to the dinner, as I clearly remember the day Elena received her award at the Town Hall, we both had an outstanding experience.

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From the moment we arrived, the university staff made both of us feel very welcomed and I remember it was such a contrast from the day-to-day routine of being a professional tennis player and coach.

It also made both of us appreciate how hard the students work during their years of study, and it was a joy to see them all walking up on stage to receive their scrolls and degrees.

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The dinner was held in the very impressive waterfront building and started with drinks and the opportunity to chat with the other honorary graduates and fellows, which also gave me the chance to talk with other senior members of the university team, in particular Professor Mohamed Abdel-Maguid, who is the Dean of School for Science, Technology and Engineering.

Mohamed spent a considerable amount of time with me, and it was incredible to hear how his life path had brought him to Ipswich to head up a very important department which includes Sports Science, a subject which has very much filled my life over the last 20 years.

Professor Abdel-Maguid without doubt has had a very interesting career, holding senior positions both in the UK and internationally, serving as an advisor for a number of companies and government organisations, including a post with the Ministry of Health in Egypt.

Elena Baltacha was honoured by the University of Suffolk in 2012. Picture: NINO SEVERINO

Elena Baltacha was honoured by the University of Suffolk in 2012. Picture: NINO SEVERINO - Credit: Archant

The chat we had was quite inspirational, the more we talked, the more I became aware of the massive development strides the university has taken of the years, and it was very clear how passionate and committed Mohamed is that it keeps going from strength to strength.

By now it was time for the official event to start, so we were all invited to enter the hall where the dinner was being held, it was the start of a very enjoyable and interesting evening.

The experience enlightened me in terms of the important role the university plays in so many students’ lives, it is the significant house of education for many talented and ambitious individuals who are focusing and preparing for their very exciting pathway into their chosen careers.

I also gained an insight in terms of the key individuals who have helped build the University of Suffolk over the years, individuals such as Vice-Chancellor Lister.

One of the highlights of the evening was a talk from Honorary Graduate and actress Diana Quick – some individuals posses a real talent for speaking, and I would definitely put Diana in this bracket.

She absolutely had me mesmerised as she talked about her life and her time growing up in India, her passion for education, writing and her time in the world of theatre, television and film.

During her talk, she spoke in a very humble way about the opportunities that had been available to her as a woman, and what she was able to achieve because of the support from other significant and influential women in her life.

Her words really connected with the work we carry out through the Elena Baltacha Foundation, in terms of supporting young girls to truly believe in themselves and develop a positive and aspirational outlook on life.

The more I listened to Diana, the more I thought to myself ‘what an inspirational and strong woman you are’ and her words further validated what I believe – education, sports and the arts can be such a bedrock of creativity for so many young people, including those we support through our foundation.

Diana ended her talk by highlighting the recent unveiling of the statue of Millicent Fawcett, which was widely covered on the television by all the national news channels.

She went on to talk about Millicent’s link to Suffolk, her achievements, and place in Great Britain’s history. She finished the evening by inviting everyone to raise their glass in respect to Millicent, whose statue now stands in Parliament Square in London, alongside other greats such as Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

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