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Graduates welcome start to ceremony

PUBLISHED: 14:05 25 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:45 03 March 2010

SUFFOLK College was proud as its halls filled with family and friends to watch this year's graduation ceremony.

Last night was one of the three graduation evenings held by the college and among its graduates was a rather famous face.

SUFFOLK College was proud as its halls filled with family and friends to watch this year's graduation ceremony.

Last night was one of the three graduation evenings held by the college and among its graduates was a rather famous face.

Ralph Fiennes was honoured with a doctorate in civil law from the college.

The Suffolk-born actor, famous for roles in films such as The English Patient and Schindlers List wore a purple gown and cap.

He stood on stage while a speech recounting his many achievements in the world of film and theatre was read.

On accepting his doctorate the actor, who was accompanied by his partner, actress Francesca Annis, spoke of the importance of the search for truth which he called the "uniting factor between all of us here tonight".

The 38-year-old said: "I would like to thank the University of East Anglia and Suffolk College for this. I am very pleased to be here in Ipswich, it is not somewhere I know well, but it is the place I had my first crawl on part.

"When I was first asked to accept this honour I could not quite understand the link between civil law and the world of the arts. Soon I realised it is the search for truth, I do not know what it is but I continue to try and find it."

During the presentation ceremony, a speech by senior college lecturer, Brian Ralph, included glowing tributes to the actor, which the academic had received from film directors Anthony Minghella and Steven Spielberg.

In response, he reminded the audience that his first, "crawl-on part" had been in the Ipswich Hospital back in 1963. He advised the graduating students always to search for the truth in their future careers. He also joked that he "loved the robes."

Ralph (pronounced Rafe) was born in the Suffolk village of Wangford, near Southwold, the eldest of six children. His father Mark was a photographer and his mother, Jennifer Lash was a novelist. All but one of his siblings followed their parents into the arts and his brother Jacob, 35, works as a gamekeeper on an East Anglian estate.

Mr Fiennes' celluloid career hit a setback with his disastrous decision to take on the role of Steed in the movie of cult sixties TV series, The Avengers, which was roundly panned by both critics and the public, brother Joseph has found fame in the hit movie, Shakespeare In Love.

And while The English Patient picked up nine gongs at the 1997 Oscars, Fiennes lost out to Geoffery Rush for his portrayal of pianist David Helfgott in Shine.

After the formalities were over, the star, who has recently returned from Canada where he was working with director David Cronenberg on the film, Spider, chatted to fellow graduates, smiling and signing autographs.

"I really felt as though I was sharing the evening with all of the other graduates," he told his beaming partner.

As well as the more famous faces there were many others collecting their qualifications after months and years of hard work.

College Principal Dave Muller paid tribute to the students hard work as individuals and also reflected on the achievements of the college over the year.

"Excellence through diversity is our mission and we are proud we have been able to put this in to action."

The graduation ceremonies at the college, accredited to the University of East Anglia, continue today and tomorrow when honorary degrees will be awarded to Ipswich-based swimmer Karen Pickering, artistic director Lady Jill Freud and Dean John F Brennan, who has forged links between the establishment and Suffolk University in Boston.

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