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Reflections for the start of the academic year

President & Principal Professor Shitij Kapur and the Dean Dr Ellen Clark-King

Welcome. This Wednesday I had the privilege of speaking at our annual Opening of Year Ceremony, held in the College Chapel and led by our Dean, The Revd Dr Ellen Clark-King. It is a wonderful interfaith service that welcomes our students and staff to the new academic year.

A lot has changed since the first students entered through the doors of the King’s Building in 1831. Yet, I believe the essence of the Opening of Year Ceremony remains the same: to look to the future and its many possibilities. In a world that seems beset with many challenges, it is often a good reminder to reflect on hope and possibilities and I found The Revd Dr Ellen Clark-King captures that possibility in her inimitable words.

It is my pleasure to share with you the wonderful sentiments. I trust you will find a moment for them and I hope you will find them as uplifting as I do.

Best wishes,

Professor Shitij Kapur
President & Principal

Video Transcript

As we begin a new year together, I want to root us in the College’s motto. The phrase that is woven into the fabric of King’s and that should be a thread to guide us into the future, more than to tether us to the past. Sancte et sapienter. Holiness and wisdom.

200 years ago, King’s founders likely had a very different sense of what those words mean than most of us today. Their understanding would have had more of God in it and less of justice and equality. Holiness for them would have been based in a particular form of worship, while wisdom would have been shaped by a very different understanding of the world around them.

It is completely right that the content of these two words should flex and change with new knowledge and broader experience. They need to integrate fresh and surprising insights as well as to preserve stable, grounding truths. But through all that change I think these words still resonate with a sense of why we are all here, why King’s is here and why King’s deserves to continue to be here.

Holiness for many of us may be a slightly alien word. But it reflects the human desire to be the very best we can be. To honour the highest expressions of humanity. Holiness is helping create a university, and a world, where mutuality, kindness, respect and generosity mean that it can be a safe home for all.

Wisdom feels more naturally at home in a university, but it is still something we need to consciously commit to if we are to do more than create mere knowledge. Wisdom involves a long-term perspective that is able to see well-beyond immediate, individual benefit towards far-reaching and fundamental purpose. Wisdom calls for responsibility for our impact on the world around us and on the generations to come.

So as we move into this new academic year, let us at King’s continue to create a space together which has holiness and wisdom at its centre. Let’s try to make sure sancte et sapienter are knitted into the fabric of the King’s experience as more than words in an ancient language. Let’s live into our commitments to ‘making the world a better place’ and ‘knowledge with purpose’ so that we can be proud to be members of this ever-evolving King’s College London.