British Consul General Robert Chatterton Dickson visited Notre Dame’s campus Monday to meet with University President Fr. John Jenkins and undergraduate students. Dickson was appointed Her Majesty’s Consul General in Chicago on June 26, and he said the job has been both fascinating and busy thus far. He is responsible for relations between Britain and 13 Midwestern states, including Indiana. He said his position involves a variety of responsibility in terms of relations between the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and the geographical range of his responsibilities has led to frequent travel. “Campus visits are one of the best parts of my position,” Dickson said. “This is my fourth campus visit, and I always enjoy them. It was a real privilege to visit Notre Dame.” Dickson traveled from Chicago to South Bend to meet with Jenkins Monday morning, and he said the two discussed cooperation in higher education relations. According to Dickson, higher education is one of the most important connections between the United States and the UK. Dickson said he recognized just how important education is for the future of, and the relations between, both nations. During his visit the Consul General also lectured in an Introduction to Political Science Class and toured campus. He said he enjoyed his visit and interactions with Notre Dame students. Both the quantity and quality of student questions during his lecture told him a lot about the caliber of students at the University, he said. “I was impressed by the Notre Dame students,” Dickson said. “They were intelligent, thoughtful and engaging. I was also very impressed by the campus and the spectacular Basilica. I am keen to do more with Notre Dame; I’ll be back.” Dickson has had an extensive career leading up to his current post. A self-described career diplomat, he said he enjoyed the variety of his 12 different positions during his 20 years of service. In 1990, he left his “more lucrative” job at a bank to work in the government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and said he has never regretted that decision. As a British ambassador to Macedonia, he managed a team that aided the Macedonian government in gaining admittance into both the European Union and NATO. Dickson described his work in the British embassy in Manila, Philippines, as both fascinating and challenging. He dealt with poverty, floods and earthquakes, but said he enjoyed position and was struck by the spirit of the Filipino people. He also worked in the British embassy in Washington, D.C., which he said is most similar to his current position. “Our relationship with the United States is the most important relationship we have with any country,” Dickson said. He was involved in shaping the UK’s contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq that ousted Saddam Hussein. Dickson advised British officials and was involved in diplomatic negotiations. For a time, Dickson was the joint-head of the counterterrorism department at the FCO in London. In that capacity, he said he managed teams that helped various countries develop strategies to counter terrorist activities within their borders. He focused on countries in South Asia, North and East Africa, and the Middle East. He described the work as both busy and unpredictable. One particularly unpredictable facet of his work was crisis response, wherein his team was responsible for advising the British Government on how to respond to terrorist attacks and activities. The worst attacks during his tenure were the shootings and bombings in Mumbai in 2008.
A first-year master’s degree student passed away unexpectedly at his off-campus residence, where he was found early Tuesday morning, according to a University press release. Graduate student Michael Thigpen, 23, will be remembered during today’s daily Mass at 5:15 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Thigpen was a native of Monument, Colo. Dr. Joseph Bock, director of the Global Health Program, first spoke with Thigpen when he was an undergraduate at the University of Colorado last year and interested in entering the one-year master’s program at Notre Dame. Bock remembered Thigpen as “a wonderful young man who was interested in helping people.” “He was somebody who really had a bright future. … He was interested in health in kind of a global sense, certainly he was interested in clinical practice in going to medical school,” Bock said. “That was his intent. He was also interested in the humanitarian side of global health.” Bock met Thigpen for the first time shortly before he began to study at Notre Dame this year. The Colorado native was working on a CD of Christian rock music with Bock’s son. “He was a very talented musician,” Bock said. “He played in different cities. He stopped by to visit [Notre Dame] on his way to somewhere out east where he was going to be doing a concert even before the program started.” Bock spent time with Thigpen and other members of the program at his family’s home along the St. Joseph River in South Bend, where he once offered the students a chance to go out on the water in kayaks. He remembered Thigpen as happy to be on the water outdoors. “He went out on the river in a double kayak and he loved it,” Bock said. Thigpen had been deeply moved by the summer shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and was planning to turn his master’s research project into an assessment of youth violence in the South Bend area with Bock. “He was full of life,” Bock said. “His eyes sparkled. It’s just tragic.” Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Erin Hoffman Harding informed the Notre Dame community of Thigpen’s loss Tuesday afternoon in an email. University President Fr. John Jenkins also released a statement expressing his sympathy and asking students, faculty and staff to remember Thigpen in their thoughts. “Our deepest condolences are with Michael’s family, friends and colleagues,” Jenkins said. “My prayers are with them during this difficult time.” The University Counseling Center and Campus Ministry are available to offer their support to the Notre Dame community during this time.