The Honorary Graduates

163rd Congregation (2002)

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri SIRINDHORN
Doctor of Letters honoris causa


Citation

The Public Orator, Dr Elaine Yee-lin Ho, wrote and delivered the following citation:

Royalty is a career for which the qualifications are unambiguous. Throughout history, the possessors of royalty have been in a position to do outstanding good and catastrophic harm. Many branches of learning, from mathematics (by way of astrology) to political science and rhetoric, had their origins in the understandable anxiety of the learned that princes should be enabled, advised and encouraged to exercise their powers for the good of their people. In many different cultures, a theory developed around the figure of the virtuous prince, who would look upon the fortune of birthright not just as a mandate to rule, but rather as a responsibility to serve. Mr Pro-Chancellor, in modern times the nature and function of royalty has changed, but it is safe to say that it has not become any easier. But in Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, we see how fortune and virtue work together in harmony for the good of the people of Thailand.

Born in 1955, Her Royal Highness is the third child of Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit of Thailand. From the very beginning of her education, Her Royal Highness showed an excellent aptitude for learning which continued to manifest itself in her academic progress through school to university. After distinguishing herself at school, she went on to achieve First Class Honours in History at Chulalongkorn University. Her scholarly brilliance extends beyond History to languages and other disciplines. In 1979, she received her M.A. in Oriental Epigraphy, and in 1981, an M.A. in Pali-Sanskrit. After conducting her doctoral research at the Graduate School, Srinakharinwirot University, she received the degree of Doctor of Education in Development Education in 1986. These accomplishments do indeed bring her close to the courtly ideal of both East and West - the scholar prince.

In her pursuit of learning, Her Royal Highness is guided by her own nature to explore and seek knowledge for the benefit of her people. Her own passion for Thai traditional culture has led her to study Thai music and dance, art and craft, and this passion has inspired enthusiasm and motivated support, both in Thailand and abroad, for her country’s rich and multi-faceted cultural heritage. The Princess is the eloquent spokesperson of her own country, a role no doubt enhanced by her ability with languages – she is knowledgeable in English, French, German, Chinese, Khmer, Pali, Sanskrit and Latin – and her accomplishments as writer, poet, and painter.

Learned and scholarly, cultured and creative, Her Royal Highness would have been admired and esteemed in her own right. As a member of the Royal Family of Thailand, she has always put her self, her knowledge, and achievements in the service of her nation. Since her early youth, she has accompanied her parents to the remote and rural areas to offer help and succour to the people there. To improve the standard of living in these areas requires a wide range of knowledge, and in her own wide-ranging academic pursuits, she has ensured that what she learns can be applied to bring benefits to the people. This can be clearly seen from the projects she has initiated or inspired, such as the nutritional and educational plan for schools in remote areas, plant genetic preservation and gene-bank projects. She has also focused on providing help for the handicapped, especially in training them in information technology so that they can live independent lives. Some of these projects, begun more than two decades ago when Her Royal Highness was in her twenties, continue to this day, and from their early beginnings in the northern border provinces, they have been extended to other provincial areas where there is need. Since 1990, she has led assistance projects in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Thailand, like other countries in the region, is struggling with the problem of reconciling the unprecedented opportunities of technological modernity with the need to nurture and honour what is best in traditional culture, and to help those people who are least equipped to deal with change. In these circumstances, a princess who is also a scholar and an activist is something of a national treasure.

Mr Pro-Chancellor, with those among us present today who work in universities, Her Royal Highness might be said to have a special bond. She is a university teacher herself, from 1979 when she started teaching General Education at Chulalongkorn University. A year later, she joined the Department of Law and Social Sciences, in the Academic Division of Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy. At present, she is Director of the Department of History at the Academy, and – it seems hard to imagine royalty doing this - plays an active role in curriculum reform. She also supervises the Thai Music Club of the Academy, lectures at other institutions, and attends academic conferences and seminars both inside and outside of Thailand. As a prolific writer, Her Royal Highness has published on literature, Buddhism, geography, history, archaeology, Khmer inscriptions, education, rural development, nutrition, remote sensing and information technology. In teaching, research, and service to the community, Her Royal Highness is the model par excellence to all teaching staff of this university.

She is revered in Thailand, and much honoured and admired abroad. Those who have followed the Princess’s life and work agree that it is her love of learning, quest for knowledge, and passion to fulfill herself and promote the well-being of others which truly exemplify the royalty of her birth. Mr Pro-Chancellor, I call upon you to confer upon Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn the degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa.


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