University pays tribute to former Chancellor Dame Diana Rigg

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The University of Stirling is saddened to learn of the death of its former Chancellor Dame Diana Rigg, who held the position from 1998 to 2008.

Professor Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, led tributes to the actress, who enjoyed a long, distinguished and award-winning career on stage, in film and on television.

Professor Gerry McCormac said: “The University community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dame Diana Rigg. We are grateful for the unwavering support and commitment she showed during her tenure as Chancellor. Her energy, charisma and pro-active nature will forever be remembered, and she will always be a significant figure in our history.”

Dame Diana became a household name in the 1960s as karate-kicking Emma Peel in The Avengers and later played Tracy – the only woman who became Mrs James Bond – in the 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. More recently, she starred as Olenna Tyrell in the series Game of Thrones.

Dame Diana Rigg

The actress had long-standing links with Stirling, having moved to the area in the 1980s and holding the position of Chair of the Macrobert Arts Centre Committee for many years. She was an active member of the local community; serving as Chieftain of the Bridge of Allan Highland Games and holding the role of patron of the Stirling and District Association of Mental Health.

Dame Diana received an Honorary Doctorate from the University in November 1988 before being installed as the University’s fourth Chancellor – becoming the first woman to hold the position – in October 1998.

During the installation at Stirling’s Church of the Holy Rude, she told the 300 assembled guests: "The academic world is a far cry from that of a thespian, although both have a lot of learning to do. I hope to be a credible Chancellor to Stirling University and to enjoy and learn about this new world.”

In a media interview to mark her appointment, she said she would “rather be proactive than just a figurehead.” She added: "I think it will be fascinating. It's an honour but it's an honour you have to meet. I intend to do it to the best of my ability. I think it's very nice that a woman who is not an academic and comes from an acting background is given this opportunity. I think it shows a lot of imagination and I am very grateful for that."

As Chancellor, Dame Diana conferred the degrees of thousands of Stirling students and many honorary graduates too. She also officially opened the Macrobert Arts Centre in 2002, after spear-heading the fundraising campaign to turn it into Scotland’s first dedicated theatre for children.

Harry Adam, Acting Chair of the University Court, said: “I was a member of the University Court during Dame Diana's tenure as Chancellor and have fond memories of her time in post. As a great fan of the Avengers, I often thought that she brought some of the spirit of her character, Emma Peel, to her chancellorship. She was a very active and supportive Chancellor.

“She will be missed by all those that knew her and my thoughts are with her friends and family at this difficult time.”