One regret, one hope with David Fergusson

Reading time: 3 minutes

In this new series, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, chats to members of our community to find out more about them. Each fortnight she’ll be asking, what is the one regret that has shaped their past, and what is their one hope for the future.

Mona Siddiqui: My guest today is my colleague and friend, David Fergusson, who is Professor of Divinity at New College. Can you share a little bit about your time in Edinburgh?

David Fergusson: I’ve been Professor of Divinity since 2000, and I served as Principal of New College for a 10-year stretch in the midst of that from 2009 to 2019. My connection with the University goes even further back – I was a student at New College from 1977 to 80 and I began my full-time academic career at New College as a lecturer from 1986 to 90. This is my third incarnation, as it were, in Edinburgh as Professor of Divinity and it’s coming to an end just over 20 years in post.

MS: Many colleagues will know that Professor Fergusson is moving to take up the Regus Chair in Divinity at the University of Cambridge. First of all, congratulations on that David. It will be a huge loss, not only to the School of Divinity but to the whole University and I think by all accounts you had a very enjoyable career. Can you tell us about some of the highlights?

DF: There have been many highlights, both within New College and in the wider work of the University and several stand out. I enjoyed a brief period during the interregnum as Head of College before Professor Dorothy Miell took over and that was an opportunity to get to know many people across the different Schools in the College and also other parts of the University. From there I continued as a Vice Principal to oversee the merger with Edinburgh College of Art and, again although that was a challenging task, it was immensely rewarding.

I think for me the experience of teaching at New College has been the most rewarding of all. I realised during my time away from the College doing other things for the University that I missed the students and the classroom interaction. I continue to be committed to supervision of graduate students so that’s really been at the core of my 20 plus years at New College and its been incredibly rewarding.

MS: So you move on to new pastures very soon but before we go onto Cambridge, looking back to your life in Edinburgh have you had any major regrets that you could share with us?

DF: During my time at Edinburgh my father died in 2009 and looking back and I regret that I didn’t spend more time with him, I’ve missed him ever since then. We got on very well and we had good times playing golf together and a part of me wishes I’d done more of that. We never forget our parents and looking back I would have enjoyed spending more time with my dad in his later years.

MS: Thanks you for sharing that David. But looking forward, what’s your one hope for the future?

DF: I’m looking forward to this late career challenge at Cambridge. I expect to spend the final five years of my career there and my hope is that I will be able to dedicate those years to teaching and research, to working with some bright and committed students and to writing one or two books that I hope to complete before I finally hang up my boots.

MS: You could auction them on ebay, they’d sell for a high price I’m sure! Thank you for being my guest and all of us wish you well on your next venture.