SIR Thomas Allen was officially installed as Chancellor of Durham University in a ceremony at the city’s Cathedral.
The Seaham Harbour-born opera singer became the 12th chancellor, replacing Bill Bryson – who handed over the robes of office.
Sir Thomas, 67, said: “It’s a terrific honour. I’d never have imagined it.
“It’s incredibly important to me. I hope it proves to be important to the university too and that’s what I intend.
“I’m aware that it’s an honorary role, a celebratory role, a role where you get to wear a nice uniform, but I have a part to play and I want to play it to the best of my ability.
The ceremony provided Sir Thomas with a chance to look back on his career.
“It’s a big, big journey I’ve been on. I had no idea it would come full circle.
“My old headmaster at Ryhope sent me to sing for a professor of music who was at Durham at the time, and he arranged for me to have an audition at the Royal College of Music in London.
“From then on my life was never the same.”
Sir Thomas now lives in London.
“I’ve always been back to visit regularly,” he said. “First to see my parents before they died, and then to see family, mostly cousins, and other contacts I have in the area.
“Wherever I am in the world, Durham always plays a big part in the way I look at the news. It’s the sort of place that never leaves you.
He was joined at the service by artist David Inshaw and author Philip Pullman, who received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.