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The country’s first ever black university professor – who has fought for civil liberties and equality throughout his life – took up the role in front of a congregation of around 180 invited guests. As part of his responsibilities as the new Chancellor, Sir Geoff will preside over graduation ceremonies as well as oversee academic awards and honorary degrees, and represent the University at ceremonial occasions.
He said: “To be named as Heriot-Watt’s new Chancellor today with my family by my side, is one of my proudest memories.
“I have, for around five decades now, had an extremely close affiliation with Heriot-Watt. It is a distinctive multi-national and diverse university with campus bases in Dubai, Malaysia and Scotland, with just a third of students based from Scotland, a third from the Dubai and Malaysia and a final third learning online studying the world over.
“Throughout my tenure as Chancellor, I will continue to promote the heritage and values of this great institution and do everything in my power to ensure we continue to deliver the very best learning and teaching environment for our students.”
In 1989, Sir Geoff became Scotland’s first black professor and has had a long association with Heriot-Watt which began when he completed his PhD in grain science and technology
He went on to a successful research career in Surrey before moving back to Heriot-Watt in 1977 where he worked until his retirement in 2005.
During that time, Sir Geoff invented the barley abrasion process, the success of which attracted funding to establish the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling as part of the Heriot-Watt campus in Edinburgh.
Sir Geoff was knighted in the 2014 New Year’s Honours for services to human rights, science and charity. In 2018, he was appointed Jamaica's first Honorary Consul in Scotland and is the 2020 recipient of the Jamaican national honour, the Order of Distinction (Commander Class).
Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, Professor Richard A. Williams, said: “Anyone who knows Sir Geoff understands how much he cares for this University, its values and its people. "