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Dorian Gray Project Celebration

Public Theatre

24 Janaury 2020


Good evening,

And welcome, everyone. Welcome to returning alumni and to staff who participated in inaugurating this project a decade ago. Welcome to current students from our college societies. Welcome to the organisers of this great project. 

This evening we celebrate student life in Trinity in all its diversity and richness, and we celebrate the triumphant culmination of a particularly imaginative and innovative project: Dorian Gray, inaugurated a decade ago.

First off, let me thank and congratulate the Central Societies Committee and Trinity Development and Alumni for a brilliant idea, brilliantly executed. In particular, I congratulate and thank:

  • Emma Matthews, Administrative Officer;
  • Joseph O’Gorman, Strategic Development Officer;
  • Ronan Hodson, Honorary Treasurer
  • Siobhán Brady, Events Executive
  • and Anna O’Loughlin, Alumni Relations Executive

This project was devised and executed through your ingenuity and commitment. I hope that it was as rewarding to work on, as it is for us to view.

And of course, heartfelt thanks to the over 900 staff and alumni who participated in this project, and made it possible. You are all now, literally, part of the image of Trinity and I hope you are as delighted about this as I am.

Like all great ideas, this project has the virtue of simplicity. It is the perfect match of style and substance that all artistic projects seek to attain. As Provost, I like to speak of the Trinity community. I like to talk about how connected we all are – staff, students and alumni of this university. I like to emphasise how each of us, individually, contributes to the fabric of this community which is at once local and global. I like to cite what has been termed the shortest poem in the English language – two words spoken by Mohammed Ali: ‘Me, We’. That’s a poem: it rhymes, and it has a grandeur radiating beyond its brevity: ‘Me, We’.

That’s how I think of the Trinity community and it’s why our next Strategic Plan, which we’ll be unveiling in a few months, is called ‘Community and Connection’ – it will be the first ever Strategic Plan to have a name rather than just its dates. It’s important to name things, to say what we stand for. From the title, Community and Connection, our mission, values, goals and actions will flow.

Looking at this image now of the faces of 900 staff and alumni coalescing to create ‘the face’ of the college – well a more perfect image for ‘community and connection’ could hardly be imagined. It is a literal illustration of ‘Me, We’. It should, I think, be the frontpiece of the new Strategic Plan – though that will depend, I guess, on the image reproducing well in small format.

The other ‘collective image’ is of our great student, Oscar Wilde, whose face your faces have helped create. CSC wanted the emblem of a human face, as well as the college façade, because CSC is all about the human experience. Oscar was chosen because he was wonderfully engaged with Societies, particularly the Phil, when a student studying Classics here in the early 1870s. And he was chosen because, of all our remarkable students through history, he is the one who remains, probably, most alive today. His wit devastated old orthodoxies – he is, after all these years since he lived, an astonishingly contemporary figure.

This is how Richard Ellmann sums him up in the last wonderful paragraph of his biography of Wilde:

He belongs more to our world than to Victoria’s. Now beyond the reach of scandal, his best writings validated by time, he comes before us still, a towering figure, laughing and weeping, with parables and paradoxes, so generous, so amusing, so right.

Wilde is one of a handful of icons whose face is recognised around the world, and by people who may not be able to name any of his plays. It is this face – ‘so generous, so amusing, so right’ – that your faces are now part of, that is the face of student experience in Trinity.

I thank you all.

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