A diverse group of alumni, ranging from our youngest graduates about to embark on the next chapter in their lives to those who have already enjoyed long and successful careers, gathered in the beautiful Large Pension Room at Gray’s Inn for the launch of the Legal Professional Network. On a beautiful summer’s day, they were treated to an enthralling talk by one of the University’s most inspiring alumni, Professor Surya Subedi, OBE, QC (Hons), whose career in International Human Rights law at the United Nations has helped to mitigate human rights abuses around the world and helped countries suffering under dictatorships transition towards becoming properly functioning democracies.
President of the Hull Alumni Association Sir Paul Grant, DL, welcomed alumni to the event, discussing briefly his own career as Head Teacher at Robert Clack School in Dagenham, and talking about the value he had gained from participating actively in the alumni community before introducing the evening’s special guest.
As one of the four Inns of Court, the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales, Gray’s Inn was the perfect place to launch the Legal Professional Network, but Professor Subedi’s talk would have been equally enthralling in any setting. It is difficult to imagine a career that could have had such an influential and positive role in the lives of so many, and Professor Subedi was clear that in a journey which has taken him around the world, his time in Hull was fundamental in his personal and professional development.
After discussing his time at Hull, which he described as being like a ‘mini United Nations’, Professor Subedi spent much of his talk focussing on his work in Cambodia and the difficulties of negotiating with the government and getting them to implement important democratic reforms, such as creating an independent judiciary and an independent electoral commission. His fascinating talk touched on his own personal strategies on the ground in Cambodia, but also the ways in which he was aided by international diplomacy and how other countries were able to influence the release of political prisoners, the return of the political opposition to the country and the implementation of reforms.
Professor Subedi took questions from the audience, touching on subjects such as his time as Human Right’s Advisor to the British Foreign Secretary, whether or not the UK Government was truly critical of human right’s abuses by powerful allies it refused to criticise publically, and the continued presence of Khmer Rouge officials in the Cambodian Government. In response to the latter question Professor Subedi expressed his hope in the younger generations who he believed were already using their votes to bring about the substantive change his institutional reforms had made possible.
There are not many who will go on to follow in Professor Subedi’s footsteps, and of those who do even fewer will achieve what he has achieved, but his enthusiasm for the role Hull played in his life illustrates the aims and values of the Professional Networks. The aim is for them to become a valuable resource for networking, so that the University of Hull can continue to contribute to the personal and professional development of alumni no matter what stage of their career. For this reason, it was wonderful to welcome this year’s graduates to the network, as they sought to make connections with those who graduated before them.
After Professor Subedi, University of Hull Legacy Officer Crystal Hindhaugh Ness talked about the Canham Turner Building, formerly known as Staff House, but renamed after an alumna who left a transformative donation to the University in her will. Another inspirational alum, Barbara Canham Turner lived an exceptional life and her gift illustrated the power legacy giving has for the University and its students.
The evening closed with Head of Alumni and Supporter Engagement Dr Ben Butler inviting alumni to continue to support the network by contributing their time as a speaker, or by offering a venue to host an upcoming event. Ben thanked alumni for participating in the network through their attendance and invited them to continue networking and making connections until the close of the event.
Alumni Engagement Manager