On Friday 24 November 2017, the Morgan Academy team were honoured to host a very special event celebrating the life and contribution of the late Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales and Chancellor of Swansea University.
The Vice Chancellor Professor Richard Davies began the day, speaking of Rhodri’s role as a very hands on Chancellor, of his enjoyment particularly of engaging with students, his breadth of knowledge and his warmth and humour. He was able to announce a new partnership between the Morgan Academy and the National Assembly, which will include an annual lecture to be given in Rhodri Morgan’s memory. First Minister Carwyn Jones shared recollections of his predecessor’s influence on his own political development, speaking of how much he had valued Rhodri’s wise counsel. Emeritus Professor Prys Morgan, eminent historian and Rhodri’s brother, talked to us about Rhodri’s early years and the influences that shaped him and his politics, telling some very funny stories involving split ink and MPs put on the spot.
In the afternoon Professor Mike Sullivan, Morgan Academy Director and a former special advisor to Rhodri who is writing a political biography of him, spoke of the agony and the ecstasy of writing for and about Rhodri. This was a politician who could never be trusted to stick to a script! A panel of four politicians from across the political spectrum - Jane Hutt AM, David Melding AM, Baroness Jenny Randerson and Jocelyn Davies - then described what it had been like for them working with Rhodri, as colleagues, as opponents and as coalition partners. Common themes included the contribution Rhodri made to winning the support of the people of Wales for devolution, his trustworthiness - deals made always kept – and his ability to connect with people at all levels. Jocelyn Davies spoke for many when she said “He was not of my Party and he was not my Leader, but he was my First Minster”.
Pro Chancellor Sir Roderick Evans concluded the event by reiterating the contribution Rhodri had made to the University, and outlining the University’s commitment to maintaining his legacy through the Morgan Academy, a unique think tank that will use world class research to help tackle the difficult issues facing Wales and the world today.
Those in attendance included leaders from across the University, Assembly Members, MPs and senior figures in local government. All agreed that the day was a fitting tribute to a man who had done so much for Wales.
Helen Mary Jones, Morgan Academy Assistant Director, who chaired the event said “We were particularly delighted that Julie Morgan joined us on this special day and was there to hear the warm tributes to Rhodri. Her support for the Academy is valued more than we can say.”
The whole event was filmed and, once edited, will be available to view on the Morgan Academy Website. The first of the annual lectures will take place at the Senedd in Cardiff next September.