Champagne and The Other Guys: the Principal’s recipe for surviving a desert island

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Photo: Jake Threadgould

She’s energetic and optimistic but admits that her worst trait is her impatience. She’s fond of Mozart but makes no secret of her penchant for The Other Guys. On November 22, Professor Louise Richardson, Principal of St Andrews, was interviewed on the Desert Island Disc segment on STAR radio in which she discussed her life, her favourite records and her literary tastes.

Professor Richardson described how she grew up in the small Irish town of Tramore and, being one of seven children, had a happy childhood. From there she went to
Dublin to study at Trinity College, which she described as her biggest cultural shift. She then earned herself a scholarship to UCLA where she gained her masters in International Relations before moving to study for her PhD at Harvard. She began
her academic career at Harvard and remained there for 20 years.

After such a long time at Harvard, Richardson decided that it was appropriate to move on. It was a difficult decision to make, as she was “lucky” to get numerous job
offers from all over the world but she said that St Andrews was the most appealing and challenging move, which is why she chose it.

When asked if she misses being able to teach in her current position, Richardson replied that she “absolutely loves teaching” and believes people in her role “should
teach”, but unfortunately she does not have enough control over her schedule to allow her to teach as much as she would like.

She describes there being too much bureaucracy and not enough money as her greatest challenges when she took the on the role of Principal and Vice-Chancellor. While being here she has tried to reduce the internal bureaucracy and bring a fundraising culture similar to that of education philanthropy in America. Richardson also described how, compared to other institutions at the same level, the University of St Andrews is “run on a shoe string.”

She says that she would like the University to have progressed academically, and be recognised for doing so, in order for there to be renewed focus on research and teaching and confidence in the University as a global research institution.

On the subject of the controversial dismissal of Reading Week, Richardson described how this was an issue that had no consensus. The alternative solution would have been one set of exams at the end of the year and after wide consultation it was decided that dismissing Reading Week would be the better choice. Richardson believes that this issue is one felt more by those who have previously had Reading Week, and that we will not truly see how well the new timetable works until after a couple of years.

When asked her favourite motto she said that she had to say the University of St Andrews’ motto, “ever to excel”, but her personal motto would be “go for it.” Her advice to the young is to take risks, don’t be afraid to fail, go for it, value time more, and to take advantage of opportunities. She most admires intellect, integrity and creativity. She said that she feels “incredibly privileged” to live in this time, to be healthy and to have a wonderful family and job.

The Principal’s island

John Lennon – Imagine: “It captures the spirit of a generation.”

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA: “Because of Springsteen’s role in the Obama campaign.”

James Taylor – Carolina: “It reminds me of my holidays in Martha’s Vineyard.”

The Other Guys – Royal Romance: “Well I had to pick them. They’ve been such a hit.”

Sebastian Barry – Long Long Way: Novel given to all first year students this year

Champagne: Principal’s luxury item

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