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The University of Southampton

Ruby Wax officially installed as Chancellor of the University of Southampton

Published: 11 December 2019
Ruby Wax's Chancellor installation
As Chancellor, Ruby Wax will play a leading ambassadorial role for the University of Southampton.

Ruby Wax has thanked the University of Southampton for ‘the great honour’ of becoming its 18th Chancellor during her formal installation ceremony.

The American actor, author and leading mental health campaigner was presented during winter graduation ceremonies involving degree recipients of the Winchester School of Art.  As Chancellor, Ms Wax will play a leading ambassadorial role for the University through activities linked to the institution’s strategy. She will also preside over graduation ceremonies and play an active role in other aspects of the University’s development.

During a poignant and candid address to the assembled audience, Ms Wax said that becoming Chancellor was something of a surprise, especially as she hadn’t taken full advantage of her early school years. 

She also announced that the University of Southampton will be the first ever university to host the successful Frazzled Cafe, founded and created by Ms Wax. Frazzled Cafe provides facilitated peer support meetings in relaxed environments, such as cafes, where people can share their personal stories in a safe, confidential and non-judgemental environment – a space where, in Ruby’s words, “it’s ok, to not be ok.”

“I’m so honoured and dare I say it, surprised to become the Chancellor of the University of Southampton. If you had asked me as a child if this was even possible, I’d laugh in your face, as would my parents,” she said. “As a young student, academic intelligence wasn’t my forte.  Canoeing yes, academia no. I wouldn’t have even gotten into Southampton when I was young…. so miracles really do happen.

“If I can do that quantum leap from being below academic sea level in high school to becoming Chancellor of this very prestigious university where my son went to study physics, which led to a fantastic career in IT, anyone can,” she enthused. 


Best known for her extensive comedy and documentary work on television, Ms Wax first gained public attention in the UK during the 1980s as a comedian, presenting documentaries for television including Ruby Wax Meets – featuring an awkward encounter with now US President Donald Trump - and serving as script editor on the popular series Absolutely Fabulous.

After 25 years in television, she admitted to losing her mojo and admits “it was starting to show”.

“Around then, I had serious depression which, I had most of my life but this was a tsunami and I thought I have to deal with it because the bouts were lasting longer and becoming more frequent,” she recalled.

“I researched fanatically and found that what had the most impressive evidence as far as dealing with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, stress was cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness which I never heard of before and it sounded a little dream-catchery to me,” she continued. “But being a driven woman, I hunted down one of the co-founders of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy who was a professor at Oxford and begged him to tell me in a few seconds what went on inside the brain when you practiced these things because I didn’t have a lot of time. He said if I wanted to learn that, I’d have to get into Oxford and go for a Master’s and so I did and no one was more surprised than that man.”

After achieving her Master’s, Ms Wax has become well-known as a major advocate for mental health, bringing issues to the foreground in Parliament, and other fora, through her role as Patron for the British Neuroscience Association and as an ambassador for the charities MIND and SANE. It is through her services to mental health that Ms Wax was awarded an OBE in 2015.

She has also written three books on the subject including the number one bestseller Sane New World: Taming the Mind. Her latest UK tour is based on her newest best-selling book, How to be Human: The Manual. 

Click here to replay the whole of the livestream of the Chancellor’s installation and graduation ceremony. 

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